The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (through Reuters) today announced that “criminal organizations” including FARC are receiving assistance from al Qaeda as they route drug shipments through West Africa to Europe. Al Qaeda provides protection.
According to Jay Bergman, DEA director for the Andean region of South America, FARC has been forced to find a new route because “interdiction efforts have made it more difficult to send cocaine straight from Colombia…to the United States and Europe.” Smugglers are apparently now using disposable submarines made from Colombian mangrove to reach the U.S. Bergan says that the smugglers’ flights to Europe have departed from Venezuelan soil and that chemicals used by Mexican cartels to make meth are coming back along the same route.
Regardless of whether you buy that this is really a product of successful drug warring, it’s decidedly bad news. It’s another (steady) source of income for al Qaeda; it threatens to further destabalize West African nations like Guinea Bissau, where the UN has long been sounding the alarm and drug traffickers have been linked to the assassination of President Vieira; and it threatens to exacerbate issues between Venezuela and Colombia, which continues to have massive problems of its own.
FARC recently brutally murdered a provincial governor, and the number of Colombians forced to flee their homes due to violence surpassed 3 million in 2009. Most have been forced into areas without basic infrastructure, like the beaches of Cartagena, where 118 families live like castaways. UNHCR has helped provide water and electricity and form a group to fight for their rights, but this is a destabilizing issue that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.
For some bullet-point recommendations for the future of Colombia, I highly recommend Henry Mance’s column in Comment is Free.