Wednesday, June 27, 2012

UN World Drug Report Shows Cocaine Production Falling

The United Nations has released its annual World Drug Report (pdf) which highlights falling cocaine production worldwide, but says this is offset by a move to develop new synthetic drugs.

The report, which compiles figures that mostly date from 2010, notes a global decline in the production of cocaine, which was driven by a fall in Colombia’s production between 2005 and 2010. In the US, cocaine consumption dropped from 3 percent in 2006 to 2.2 percent in 2010. US consumers were mostly supplied by cocaine from Colombia, while in Europe, where consumption remained stable, there was growing use of cocaine from Bolivia and Peru.

In terms of the area under coca cultivation, this decreased globally by some 18 percent between 2007-2010, says the report. This was due to the decline in Colombia, where the area (adjusted for small fields) dropped from 73,000 hectares in 2009 to 62,000 the following year. Neighboring Bolivia and Peru saw small increases in the period, up to 31,000 and 61,200 respectively.

However, a recent report from Colombian newspaper El Tiempo said that 2011 figures for the country, due to be released by the UN in mid July, would show that the area under coca cultivation rose again slightly last year to 64,000.

According to the UN, reported cocaine seizures remained fairly stable between 2006 and 2010, though declining purity meant that this actually represented a smaller quantity of the drug. Globally some 694 tons was confiscated in 2010. This would represent a large proportion of the 788-1,060 tons of pure cocaine estimated to be produced annually, but the purity of the seized product is unknown. Additionally, as the report points out, there is overreporting, and if two countries collaborate on a seizure they may both report the figure.

Data on heroin cultivation and eradication in 2010 was not available from the Latin American producing countries (Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala). The report notes large jumps in heroin seizures, however, which more than doubled to a record high of 1.7 tons in Colombia, leaped five-fold to 853 kg in Ecuador, and increased about a third to 374 kg in Mexico.

One key trend noted in the report is a shift in drug consumption from developed to developing countries. However, in South America, average cocaine use declined from 0.9 to 0.7 percent of the adult population, driven by Argentina and Chile. Brazil is thought to be seeing increased cocaine use, but there is not yet data on this, according to the UN. Meanwhile, the rate of consumption stands at a slightly lower 0.5 percent in Central America, and 0.7 percent in the Caribbean.

Of South America, the use of cocaine, amphetamine and ecstasy is reported to be particularly high among young people in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay. Some countries in the region, including Argentina, El Salvador, Peru and Uruguay have reported the use of horse tranquilizer ketamine.

The report also notes that the fight to cut production of plant-based drugs like heroin and cocaine is offset by increased production of synthetic drugs. It states that “New chemically engineered psychotropic substances designed to remain outside international control are also increasingly being used and identified,” such as mephedrone and MDPV, often sold as bath salts or plant food.

More from the Wall Street JournalLA Times blog.

News Briefs
  • The LA Times looks at the campaign of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is running for Mexico’s presidency in Sunday’s elections, saying that the optimism of the leftist candidate might not match the facts, as the polls show him many points behind front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto. The newspaper notes that Lopez Obrador can often “dip into the sort of vitriolic discourse that turned off many voters in 2006,” calling opposition politicians “pigs” who misuse public funds. More productively, he has criticized the “conspiracy” of television and political propaganda designed to bring Peña Nieto to power, echoing the concerns of student protest movement Yo Soy 132.
  • InSight Crime has published a two-part analysis of how Mexico’s elections are likely to affect the country’s drug policy. The first part looks at the record and policies of the front-runner, but notes that he is inheriting some long term trends that he will not be able to do much to change -- “Peña Nieto’s administration would not be able to swiftly or single-handedly reverse cartels’ move into extortion and kidnapping, nor will it be able to bring back the calmer landscape of the 1980s, when one or two cartels dominated.” Part II asks what we can expect from the next president, saying that he or she will likely stay close to the US and keep the military involved in domestic security.
  • The Economist blog looks at the race for the mayorship of Mexico City, which Miguel Angel Mancera, candidate of Lopez Obrador’s Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), is expected to win by a large margin. It says that this highlights the divide between the capital and the rest of the country -- “whereas the left is expected to do worse in this year’s presidential contest than it did in 2006, in the capital its share of the vote looks set to leap up, from 47% in 2006 to perhaps somewhere around 65%.”
  • The Associated Press reports that crime and violence is overshadowing the Venezuelan presidential campaign, with opposition candidate Henrique Capriles saying that in the October vote, where he faces incumbent Hugo Chavez “We will have to choose between life or death.” Meanwhile a new report from International Crisis Group says Chavez’s sickness threatens his country’s stability, due to the extremely personalized nature of his rule, which means any handover of power will be difficult. In another sign of the charged atmosphere of the campaign, Capriles has called for the National Electoral Council to stop the president using his position to make lengthy campaign speeches, the AP reports.
  • Ecuador has discovered a semi-submersible vessel designed to transport drugs under the surface of the ocean, which was being constructed in an island in a Gulf on the Pacific coast. It is the second such “drug-sub” discovered in the country, according to the AP. This follows the Colombian Navy’s seizure of a similar vessel on Sunday in the Pacific port of Nariño. These craft can carry many tons of cocaine -- 10 to 15 in the case of the Ecuadorian find -- up to Central America or even Mexico without being detected, as they sit just beneath the surface of the water.
  • Ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has made a swift about-turn, announcing that he will not attend a Mercosur meeting in Buenos Aires this week, which he says is because he does not want to put pressure on other leaders at the summit, reports the AP. Paraguay has been suspended from the body, and Lugo had said he planned to attend, as part of his campaign to “re-establish the democratic order,” as discussed in previous posts.
  • A UN report on rape cases in Port-au-Prince found massive impunity and failures to prosecute. Of 62 complaints filed in a selection of the city's stations in a three-month period in 2010, none had gone to trial more than a year later, reports the AP. The UN found that “police and judicial authorities lack even the most basic resources to do their jobs, such as computers, vehicles and furniture.”
  • El Faro has an interview with Raul Mijango, one of the mediators of a truce between the country’s two biggest gangs, which has seen murders fall by some 60 percent since March. He discusses his close relationship with Security Minister David Mungia Payes, who hired him as an advisor in 2009, and says that the government should sit down and negotiate with the gang leaders in order to bring about lasting peace.
  • El Nuevo Diaro reports from a small community on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast where locals protest about the constant presence of the military, who they say have unfairly accused some residents of being traffickers.
  • The NYT has a piece on the Cuatro Cienegas desert in Chihuahua, north Mexico, whose harsh conditions allow scientists an insight into what life might have developed on Mars.

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