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Cocaine: Brazil, major “middleman” to Europe, and increasing drug consumer.

UNODC World Drug Report 2011

For decades, Brazil has been one of the countries through which the drugs produced in the Andean region are routed to major global markets, Europe and USA.

The report released this week by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on cocaine and derivatives, shows that in addition to maintain and enhance that role, Brazil has become a major consumer of the drug.

According to the UNODC, based on seizures of shipments made by European police, Brazil is currently the third largest in the confiscation of cocaine captured in that continent, after Venezuela and Ecuador.

In 2009, of all cocaine intercepted in Europe, 6.3 tons passed through Venezuela, Ecuador was the second with 2.4 tons, and Brazil third with 1.5 tons seized by the european authorities.

But while the Venezuelan volume decreased compared to last year, Brazil nearly doubled.

Considering the number of arrests, which is another indicator of the intensity of drug trafficking, the Brazilian role in the delivery of drugs into Europe has grown significantly: if in 2005 there were 25 jailed,  in 2009 that number rose to 260, more than 10 times the first figure .

According to Bo Mathiasen, UNODC representative in Brazil, these numbers show that the major drug cartels are remixing and spraying the global distribution of cocaine.

Most of the drug is taken by “mules”, that is people hired (sometimes only once) for delivery to a dealer upon destination. Rarely does a “mule” for over 10 or 12 kilos, and often much less.

In cases where the European police intercepted the shipment, who goes to prison is the “mule”, while the professional smuggler escapes unharmed, in most cases without even being identified, with rare exceptions.

But other numbers show that growing domestic consumption causes most concern to local authorities.

In 2004, Brazilian police had confiscated eight tons of cocaine on its territory, a figure that rose to 24 tons in 2009. According to UNODC, one third of the cocaine consumed in South America passes through Brazil and is consumed here.

In a world list, Colombia appears in the first place as responsible for 35 percent of the total global capture of cocaine, followed by the United States, with 15 percent of the cocaine seizures, Ecuador (9 percent) and Panama (7 per cent).

In the UNODC list of planetary capture of cocaine, Brazil ranks eighth, with 3 percent of the volume apprehended, along with countries like Mexico, Spain and Costa Rica.

UNODC estimates that Brazil has a quota of between 900,000 and one million users of cocaine, the highest in the hemisphere after the United States and  Mexico.

Besides cocaine, the UN report highlights the growth of chemical drugs like amphetamine and methamphetamine, an area in which the three top consumers are Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina.

Used initially as an adjunct in the treatment of obesity, the amphetamines and the like have become a drug because of its stimulating action and its high capacity to induce addiction.

The UNODC study does not include precise data on the use of “crack” (cocaine base paste), only processed, whose use is increasingly used among the poorest of the population, due to its relatively low cost.