Cocaine surge to Europe fueled by new gangs, violence-report

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Drugs are incinerated at a military base in Pedro Brand, Santo Domingo province, Dominican Republic, on December 13, 2018. (AFP)
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Experts make tests before the incineration of drugs at a military base in Pedro Brand, Santo Domingo province, Dominican Republic, on December 13, 2018. (AFP)
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A policeman stands guard before the incineration of drug at a military base in Pedro Brand, Santo Domingo province, Dominican Republic, on December 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 14 December 2018
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Cocaine surge to Europe fueled by new gangs, violence-report

  • The emergence of more gangs has led to new marketing and transport methods, such as by couriers who dispatch the cocaine to consumers who contact special, dedicated call centers

LISBON: New gangs are muscling into cocaine markets in Europe, setting up smuggling networks straight from producers in Latin America to consumers, a business which used to be dominated by the mafia, the Lisbon-based EU drugs agency said on Thursday.
In a study, which aimed to identify the causes of surging amounts of cocaine smuggled into Europe, the agency found that new gangs from the Balkans, Morocco and elsewhere were joining Italy’s mafia to supply Europe’s most popular stimulant drug.
Rising supplies of purer cocaine to Europe is mainly the result of growing production in Latin America, especially by the biggest producer, Colombia.
That has led to growing numbers of gangs setting up their own smuggling lines straight from producers, which has kept cocaine prices lower. New gangs now include Moroccans, who use their established smuggling routes for cannabis.
“The fragmentation of the cocaine trade in Europe appears to have resulted in increased competition among crime gangs for national and cross-border territories in cocaine supply and retail,” the report said. “One of the consequences has been an increase in violence and drug-related homicides.”
The emergence of more gangs has led to new marketing and transport methods, such as by couriers who dispatch the cocaine to consumers who contact special, dedicated call centers.
Such courier services exist in Britain, France and Belgium, where buyers get in touch with call centers located in Spain or the western Balkans, the report said.
“These new methods, reflecting an ‘Uberization’ of the cocaine trade, are clear signs of a competitive market in which sellers have to promote additional services beyond the product itself, such as fast delivery anywhere at any time,” it said.
The increasing supply of cocaine in Europe has coincided in the past few years with changes in traditional smuggling routes from Iberia to large ports in Belgium, France and Germany.
The port of Antwerp is now the single, biggest entry point for cocaine into Europe, with 41 tons seized in 2017. In 2016 70.9 tons of the drug was seized in all in Europe.
The report warned that the new smuggling routes through ports “may represent only the tip of the iceberg, as other routes and trafficking modes, such as private aviation, may simply go undetected.”


Mnangagwa returns to Zimbabwe after protest crackdown

Updated 6 min 10 sec ago
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Mnangagwa returns to Zimbabwe after protest crackdown

  • ‘I am happy that the country is quiet. Our people should concentrate on their work’
  • Zimbabweans have seen little evidence of the promised economic revival or increased political freedoms

HARARE: Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has landed back in Harare, state television said Tuesday, after cutting short a foreign tour over nationwide protests that were met with a brutal security crackdown.
Police and soldiers launched a large-scale operation against suspected protesters, activists and organizers of the strike last week, which was triggered by a sharp rise in fuel prices.
At least 12 people were killed and 78 treated for gunshot injuries, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which recorded more than 240 incidents of assault and torture.
About 700 people have been arrested.
“I am happy that the country is quiet. Our people should concentrate on their work,” Mnangagwa said after landing late on Monday night. “There are channels of communication. We want Zimbabwe developed.”
The High Court in Harare ruled Monday that government had no powers to order the shutdown of the Internet which was imposed as protests swept across the country.
Handing down judgment in a case brought by human rights lawyers and journalists, judge Owen Tagu said “it has become very clear that the minister had no authority to make that directive.”
Internet and social media appeared to be partially returning to normal on Tuesday morning.
Mnangagwa, who was seeking much-needed foreign investment on his tour, scrapped plans to attend the Davos summit of world leaders this week.
He had visited Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan before cutting his trip short.
Mnangagwa, 76, had pledged a fresh start for the country when he came to power in November 2017 after Robert Mugabe was toppled, ending 37 years in office that were marked by authoritarian rule and economic collapse.
But Zimbabweans have seen little evidence of the promised economic revival or increased political freedoms.
The UN human rights’ office criticized the government’s reaction to the protests.
The violent demonstrations erupted on January 14 after Mnangagwa announced petrol prices would more than double in a country that suffers daily shortages of banknotes, fuel, food and medicine.
He flew to Russia soon after making that announcement in a televised address to the nation.
Accused of conducting a deadly crackdown on dissent, the army and police denied any wrongdoing, saying some assailants raiding homes were wearing official uniforms to pose as security personnel.
Mugabe, now 94, ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist from independence from Britain in 1980 until 14 months ago.
The military, fearing that Mugabe’s wife Grace was being lined up to succeed him, seized control and forced him to resign before ushering Mnangagwa to power.