African Arguments has a good article by Michael Keating on the rise of drug trafficking in West Africa and the sad development of narco states in the region.
Apparently Guinea-Bissau has already been characterized as a narco state, and Guinea-Conakry is fast turning into one too. David Brown, a US diplomat who recently wrote a report called “The Challenge of Drug Trafficking To Democratic Governance and Human Security in West Africa,” wrote that “the coup in 2008 there have been reports of Latin American cocaine traders moving in significant numbers to Conakry, where some relatives of the late President Lansana Conté have an established interest in the cocaine trade. In 2010 the U.S. government designated Ousmane Conte, the son of Guinea’s late President, as a Tier 1 kingpin.” He fears that 3 or 4 other states in West Africa may be going down the same road.
Countries like Guinea-Bissau make for an easy target. A 2008 UN report noted that the country’s GDP was equal to the “wholesale value of 6 tons of cocaine in Europe.” Traffickers liked the country’s “unguarded coastline, high-level corruption and near-total absence of the rule of law, allowing cocaine gangs to operate with impunity.”
Most of the cocaine goes through Guinea-Bissau and Ghana and is then smuggled to Europe by West African criminal groups. Perhaps more worrying, these groups often have ties to non-state actors like Hezbollah and AQIM.
Keating notes that “a fair amount [of the money] is laundered in construction and legitimate businesses in such numbers that some observers cynically reflect that drug money is a net plus for the treasuries of these most impoverished nations,” but obviously the consequences of this phenomena are pretty dire for the region.
Of all the interesting articles out there about the capture of the Zeta cartel boss and what it means for Mexico’s drug war, this headline takes the cake on least insightful and most obvious:
Mexican Capo Tried to Escape While Being Captured
Wow, I’m shocked. That’s some hard-hitting journalism. I would have never guessed.
If you are interested in Mexico, especially if you want to read more on drug trafficking and crime, then Alejandro Hope is your guy. He’s a researcher who studies these issues and tweets regularly on them. Here is a link to his blog and his twitter handle is @ahope71. (By the way, he posts in English and in Spanish).
The reason I bring this up is that Alejandro recommended a bunch of great articles on Mexico this morning. Here are the titles and links:
1. Exporting pacification to Mexico “Mexico has held talks with the Israeli defence ministry on confronting the Zapatistas of Chiapas. Why now?”
2. In the hot land, Mexicans just say no to drug cartels. “Communities in Michoacan’s Tierra Caliente are rising up against the drug-trafficking gangs that have terrorized them for years.”
3. ‘Zetas Spend All Their Drug Trafficking Profits on Fighting Gulf Cartel’ “During his testimony, Rejon also implied that the Zetas enjoyed the backing of Mexican police and military during its struggle against the Gulf Cartel, stating that the authorities would take bribes in exchange for information and other services, among them kidnapping.”
4. Políticos mexicanos encomiendan a Dios el control de sus Gobiernos (roughly, Mexican politicians are symbolically turning over political power to God). 4 mayors have recently given Jesus the key to the city in hopes of reducing violence.
and lastly (not from Alejandro), there is the cat that is running for mayor (to wit, the candigato). While it’s obviously a joke, the cat’s popularity probably demonstrates how cynical and disenchanted the population is of politicians.
Morris The Cat For Mayor: Xalapa, Mexico Candidate Promises To Sleep And Do Nothing “He promises “Xalapa Without Rats” and guarantees that he’ll lounge around and do nothing all day. He also admits that he’s likely to make a mess in office. But at least he’ll cover it up rather than leaving it around for others to clean up.”
Apparently he is not the first. Stubbs the cat ran and won a mayorship in Alaska in 1997. He apparently did such a good job that he is still honorary mayor. Way to go Stubbs!