Afghanistan again tops list of illegal drug producers
Afghanistan remains by far the world’s top producer of illegal opium poppy used to make heroin, according to the State Department’s annual report on global trends in the illicit narcotics trade, which also pinpoints three countries — Bolivia, Burma and Venezuela — for having “failed demonstrably” to uphold international counternarcotics agreements.
The report, which the State Department quietly released and submitted to Congress last week, also highlights Nicaragua as a major drug transit country and claims that more than 80 percent of illegal cocaine entering the U.S. gets smuggled through the Central American corridor.
The 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report also cites Mexico as a “center for money laundering” along with high ongoing rates of drug trafficking. But it also points to “signs of improvement” in the security situation in Mexico, where more than 50,000 people are estimated to have been killed in drug related violence since 2006.
Citing a “major Mexican newspaper,” the report maintains that “the annual number of organized crime-related homicides through November 2012 declined by an estimated 19 percent from 2011” in Mexico. The report adds, however, that the decline may only reflect a downturn in violence in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, since “shifting patterns of violence” led to higher homicide rates elsewhere in the nation.
Describing U.S.-Mexico counternarcotics cooperation as “unprecedented,” the report maintains that $1.1 billion in aid from Washington has “boosted Mexican efforts to bring to justice leaders of transnational criminal organizations.”
“That success, however, has also resulted in smaller, fractured organizations that have violently attempted to consolidate their power,” the report states.
On Afghanistan, meanwhile, the report says “smuggling of heroin into India from Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to increase in 2012” and that “drug-trafficking organizations in India use human couriers and commercial package services to send illicit drugs overseas, both to Europe and the Americas.”
With U.S. military forces preparing to exit from Afghanistan in 2014, the nation’s ongoing and high level illicit drug production remains a subject of debate in the world’s foreign policy and counterterrorism circles — since profits from the illicit drug trade have for years been known to finance international terrorism.
An introductory section of the report outlines how “nearly all” of Afghanistan’s opium cultivation is now occurring in the war-torn nation’s southern and western provinces. The report sites progress in the effort to beat back opium growth in Helmand Province — Afghanistan’s largest cultivation area — but states that overall poppy cultivation in across Afghanistan actually “increased by 57 percent” between 2011 and 2012.
The world’s next biggest opium cultivator is Myanmar. Claims by the Myanmar government that its officials have destroyed an increasing amount of opium crop “cannot be verified,” State Department officials said.
The report names Burma as one of the three nations to have “failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.” But the U.S. posture toward Burma has softened dramatically during the past year, as the nation’s leaders have undertaken significant democratic reforms.
The report calls for similar waivers to be granted to Venezuela and Bolivia on grounds that U.S. support for programs aiding the three nations are “vital to the national interests of the United States.”
The report cites a lack of counternarcotics coordination with Venezuelan authorities and states that “as in prior years, the United States remains prepared to deepen cooperation with Venezuela to help counter the increasing flow of cocaine and other illegal drugs transiting Venezuelan territory.”
“Venezuela remains a major transit country for cocaine shipments via aerial, terrestrial, and maritime routes,” the report states. “The vast majority of illicit narcotics that transited Venezuela during 2012 were destined for the Eastern Caribbean, Central America, the United States, West Africa and Europe.”
With regard to Bolivia, the report maintains that “most Bolivian cocaine flows to other Latin American countries, especially Brazil, for domestic consumption or onward transit to West Africa and Europe.”
“Approximately 1 percent of cocaine seized and tested in the United States originates in Bolivia,” the report states.
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