• 28 May 2020

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: José Manuel Colodrás

    José Manuel Colodrás, Police Chief Inspector and coordinator of the FIIAPP-managed and European Union-financed EU-ACT project, tells us about his experiences and his day to day life working and living in Ukraine.

    Police Chief Inspector and coordinator of the EU-ACT project, José Manuel Colodrás

    How was your arrival in Ukraine? Do you have any anecdotes from that time?  

    My first contact with Ukraine was in March 2017, although my final deployment did not take place until May that same year. I was surprised by some Ukrainian customs, relationships and attitudes, among other things, the apparent coldness of the Slavs. It must be said that this was a first impression, since as soon as you earn their trust, you can find friends here who trust in you as much or more so than in Spain, even with the barrier that the language represents.  

    An anecdote that caught my attention is that the national dish in Ukraine is «сало» pronounced | salo | (bacon) sliced and accompanied by raw garlic and pickles (mainly pickled gherkins). It is usually had as an accompaniment to vodka or other similar drinks (whiskey is as popular here as gorilka, which is what Ukrainian vodka is called. I was surprised, as I did not think that culinary traditions that have totally vanished from many countries in Europe, like that of making salo and pickles at home, were maintained. Family relationships are also something that, while a little differently from how we do it in Spain, are cultivated in Ukraine with meals on Sundays or outdoor barbecues. 

    And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you? 

     The adaptation period was fast. City life is relatively easy. The hardest thing for me (and I still find it difficult) is adapting to the bureaucratic mentality, inherited from the Soviet tradition that permeates not only the administration but even the work of private companies.  Any management task is complicated and the procedures for hiring, for making a simple bank transfer, or requesting a certificate make it extremely difficult to implement our international cooperation projects and, sometimes, also daily life.  

    Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it proving to be very different from your previous ones? How long have you been there and how much time do you have left? 

    I have had previous experiences, but only for a few months (in West Africa: Nigeria and Senegal). As I mentioned, I have been here for 3 years and I have, in principle, a few months still to go, until December 2020. 

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain? 

     Yes, it must be said that the routine is very different. In Spain as a Chief Inspector with the National Police Corps, personal relationships, both with subordinates and colleagues, and with other institutions and people, occupied most of the time. 

     In the EU-ACT project, on a day-to-day basis, even before this COVID-19 mandated quarantine, a very significant part of the work was carried out over the internet, especially interaction with other project members: calls, emails, messages and the use of our own project platform that allows us to share all the material in the cloud. In that sense, the work is very different and has made the transition to these times, when teleworking is mandatory, quick and relatively easy. 

     Personal relationships with beneficiaries (Ukrainians) and with other international partners also take a long time and, in this case, they are also very different. It is necessary to put yourself in the position of being a collaborator and facilitator, rather than trying to be a protagonist in the activities, this makes for a very interesting and enriching change of perspective. 

     From the point of view of institutional representation, I now represent not only Spain, but the entire European Union, and that, of course, also broadens the vision we have of our work. There is a clear awareness that the EU is a whole and that, from the outside, we are increasingly seen as “Europeans“.  

     What is the relationship with FIIAPP like?  

    My relationship with FIIAPP has always been very positive. I would simply say that most of my colleagues are also friends, especially the colleagues who provide support from Madrid, who have made my job much easier and from whom I have learned enormously. What I hope is that this relationship with FIIAPP, which started before this project, will continue when this project ends. Of course, I consider FIIAPP to be a key instrument for the international projection of the Spanish administration, something that historically we have lacked compared to other countries. 

    How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate? 

    As I have commented, it has allowed me to get to know a new work methodology, new areas of knowledge (socio-health issues, public policy development, the operation of international projects) and finally, it has given me a broader vision of my police work. From a personal and even family point of view, it is turning out to be a great experience that not only will I remember all my life, but it will certainly have a great impact on my personal and professional development. It is an opportunity for which I have to thank the Spanish administration and it motivates me to give the best of myself in every activity, event or meeting that I hold within the framework of the EU-ACT project. 

  • 14 May 2020

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    “The Internet has no borders and criminals find a way to attack” 

    On 17 May, World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is held and FIIAPP is working on various projects, such as EL PAcCTO and Apoyo a AMERIPOL, which promote action by the security forces and corps against internet crime 

    Diego Alejandro Palomino

    To commemorate this day, we interviewed Diego Alejandro Palomino, from the Technological Investigation Unit of the National Police, to have him clarify concepts related to telecommunications security and the cyber-patrolling work they carry out to fight cyber crime.  

    What is the dark web, and how is it different from the deep web? 

    The content of the web is a conglomerate of files of all kinds, which are usually indexed, that is, they can be found by searching through the different search engines that exist. That would be the “surface web”, the one to which all users have access and which, however, may correspond to just 4-5% of net content. 

    The dark web, on the other hand, corresponds to content that is not indexed, that is, the content hidden, a priori, from the usual search engines. The contents of the “dark web” pursue anonymity in the source and destination of the information transmitted, whether deliberately or otherwise, which is why it is often accessed through specific applications. Despite this, these applications are used in the same way for searching the “surface web”. 

    Although we can speak of a distinction between the “dark web” and the “deep web”, in practice such differentiation makes little sense. It is true that to refer to the “deep web” the example of an iceberg is usually used, with three parts distinguished therein: the upper part, which is located above the water, which would correspond to the “surface web”; the contiguous submerged part (or intermediate part), which would correspond to the networks and technologies pursuing anonymity in the source and destination of their transmissions, which would be the dark web”, and the lower peak, which would be the websites or databases that escape all types of search engine indexing and are very difficult to access, which would correspond to the “deep web”. 

    What is the work of the Technology Research Unit on the dark web? 

    The tasks of the Central Cybercrime Unit include investigating all crimes related to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), and a large part of its work is done on the web, without differentiating where the information is found, where the crimes are committed and where the criminals are located. 

    One of the main tasks carried out by the National Police consists of the prevention and investigation of crimes, including those carried out on-line. For such tasks, different sources of information are available: police complaintscommunications from public authorities, information on citizen participation and information obtained directly. 

    In the net, one of the fundamental sources for the National Police is cyber patrolling, which consists of a mixture of techniques, mostly preventive, with the aim of locating illegal activities and their perpetrators, and which do not necessarily have to be linked to specific investigations. It is a technique that allows for the collection, storage and analysis of data so that they can be transformed into relevant information. In general, cyber patrols consist of the observation of social networkstracking on the dark web and checks on the web, distinguishing the activity that can may happen on open networks, like any net user, and on private networks, with judicial authorisation and, normally, for concrete investigation of certain crimes. 

    Has activity increased on this net during the state of alarm? 

    Network activity has increased considerably, based on various factors. For one thing, people who are confined at home and have the possibility of teleworking have remote access from their homes, which generates an increase in the security breaches and vulnerabilities of companies that facilitate this kind of work. 

    For another, since people are not doing outdoor activities they search for leisure or entertainment on-line, which means greater control over emails, an increase in the use of social networksweb searches for information, the need to buy  pharmaceuticals and basic necessities, etc. All this leads to a significant increase in illegal activity and, above all, in the effectiveness of cyber criminal actions. 

    Among the activities that are being discovered among all the information obtained by whatever means we can highlight different blocks of irregular activities, such as fake news, fraud of all kinds, and offences against people and the protection of minors. 

    As an example, and summarising the illegal activity detected by the Central Cybercrime Unit, the following issues, among many others, can be highlighted: More than 130,000 domains related to COVID-19 have been detected, emails, websites and instant messages offering miraculous remedies, including COVID-19 vaccines, fake websites for the sale of pharmaceuticals, impersonation of official bodies for regularisation of temporary lay-offs (ERTES), financial compensation from the Social Security or economic aid to the unemployed and self-employed, as well as an immense increase in “Phishing using the main financial entities’ corporate images. 

    There are no borders on the net… is it necessary to do cyber patrols with the cooperation of several countries or police units? 

    The National Police obviously works hand in hand with international public institutions to carry out cyber patrols and detect “fake news”. The Internet has no borders and criminals find a way to attack victims and feel untouchable before States. The exchange of intelligence and investigative information is therefore still vital. 

    International police cooperation plays a key role in the investigations and cyber patrolling that is currently taking place. It is a way of exchanging experiences and good practices, not just information, when dealing with any investigation, and having knowledge of the current status of cybercrime. 

    The support of the main international institutions, EUROPOL and INTERPOL, where experiences and good practices are being shared, as well as early warning systems and information on new criminal phenomena on the net. In fact, fluid contacts continue to be maintained in the face of network checks requested through these channels. 

    Recently, the meeting with AMERIPOL, which took place as part of the cooperation with EUROPOL and, specifically, with the National Police of Spain, has been an important milestone for rapprochement, collaboration and understanding between the police of various countries that, as a general rule, and more so in the current situation, require generosity, understanding and mutual support, because we are all in the same boat, and sometimes the boat goes adrift and we feel like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza crossing the high plains, fighting against giants or windmills.  

  • 23 April 2020

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    “Spanish is that ‘big gold’ we left in Latin America that Pablo Neruda spoke of”

    The Cervantes Institute is a prestigious institution that promotes the teaching, study and use of Spanish and also participates in Spanish Cooperation. On the occasion of the international day of the Spanish language, established by the UN on April 23, we interviewed Sonia Pérez Marco, the Institute's communication and press manager, who explains her main duties and the situation of the Spanish language today.

    Photograph of the facade of the Instituto Cervantes headquarters

    The Cervantes Institute is a prestigious institution that promotes the teaching, study and use of Spanish and also participates in Spanish Cooperation. On the occasion of the international day of the Spanish language, established by the UN on April 23, we interviewed Sonia Pérez Marco, the Institute’s communication and press manager, who explains her main duties and the situation of the Spanish language today.

     

    What is the Cervantes Institute?

    The Cervantes Institute is the body created by the Spanish Government in 1991 to promote and spread the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures throughout the world. We now have 86 centres in 45 countries on five continents.

     

    Why is Spanish Language Day celebrated and how does the Cervantes Institute commemorate it? 

    April 23 is International Book Day, a date also chosen to commemorate the death of Miguel de Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso. It was created by UNESCO more than two decades ago, and in 2010 the UN also established it as Spanish Language Day, which is a happy coincidence.

    As an institution that promotes culture in Spanish from all Spanish-speaking countries, it is a very important day that we have stretched out into a week. In our network of centres, we celebrate Cervantes Week around this day, with a large number of activities. This year, the title given to the week is “Freedom is a bookshop”, a verse from the latest Cervantes Award-winner, Joan Margarit. As we find ourselves in these exceptional circumstances, both at the headquarters in Madrid and in centres around the world, our activities and initiatives have had to be virtual, and we are using social networks as a platform. When face-to-face is not possible, we resort to virtual communications to reach everywhere. But the important thing is the panorama of great quality literature, art, science and, ultimately, culture in Spanish surrounding Book Day and Spanish Language Day. 

     

    What is the situation of the Spanish language in the world?

    I would say effervescent. Almost 700 million people speak it worldwide, and more than 22 million study it. It is the second language of international communication after English, and the second in native speakers after Chinese. We have a lot to celebrate.

    It is in the United States and the African continent where we find the most active sources of Spanish. In fact, it is estimated that by 2050, the US will be the second Spanish-speaking country in the world, behind Mexico. And Africa is a real discovery. 6.5% of people learning Spanish in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa. We have therefore created a training programme for Spanish teachers in five countries –Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast and Gabon– in collaboration with Casa África and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

    Our language is considered prestigious there and is part of their educational systems. Football and soap operas have, of course, also played an invaluable role in spreading Spanish. Moreover, Asia continues to consider it a language of interest due to its economic potential, and there is growing demand for certifications. But it’s not all good news. We have to be able to consolidate it as a working language in international organisations, and this requires a great deal of commitment. Not to mention that Spanish must seriously consider how to conquer the world of science and technology, or a less promising future than we imagine awaits us. The power is there, now we have to channel it properly.

     

    How important is the Spanish language in generating a link between citizens?

    Spanish is the vehicular language of Spain, and it respectfully coexists and is enriched by the country’s other co-official languages, Basque, Catalan and Galician. At the Cervantes Institute, we have held meetings with the Etxepare Institute, the Ramón Llull Institute and the Consello de Cultura Galega, because we believe that the wealth languages bring citizens is a positive, and not a negative.

    In our network of centres around the world, we programme activities around culture in these languages, and also offer classes when there are enough people interested. In the end, Spanish secures and serves as a cultural general for the entire country. All languages have the same dignity, though not all have had the same fortune, and in Spain we should be aware that this is the time for them to be luckier, without taking away their dignity. The Cervantes Institute certainly has nothing against it.

     

    And among the institutions of Spanish-speaking countries?

    If one thing is clear, it is that Spanish will be what America wants it to be. Spain only accounts for 8% of Spanish speakers worldwide. The rest are on the other side of the Atlantic, that territory of ‘La Mancha’ of which the writer Carlos Fuentes spoke. The fact of sharing the way we express the world leads us to consider ourselves a community with close ties. Twenty-one countries united by the same phrase: we speak Spanish“Spanish is that “big gold” we left in Latin America that Pablo Neruda spoke of” 

    The two main world axes at the cultural and linguistic level are currently the Anglophone and the Hispanic. It depends on us to give the power of being millions of speakers worldwide its corresponding influence.

    We are a very diverse region, a family where the commonalities outweigh the clashes. Every three years we hold the International Congress of the Spanish Language in one of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries; the last, the eighth, was in Argentina last year, and the next, in two years’ time, will be in Peru. These are high-level meetings, but popular at the same time. There is talk and there are arguments, there are great speeches but also intimate chats in small cultural centres. There is consensus and dissent. But what always remains is unity in diversity.

     

    At FIIAPP we organise various international cooperation projects in Spanish-speaking countries… what do you think the fact of sharing a language brings to establishing alliances? 

    Well, alliances have little to do with speaking the same language, but rather with sharing the same goal. In this sense, the institutions of the Latin American and Spanish countries, as well as their governments, know very well that there are a series of horizons set by the SDGs that cannot be avoided, but are not easy to achieve. More education, the eradication of poverty, the fight against climate change, true gender equality, respect for democratic norms, etc. Sharing the same language helps us understand each other linguistically, but it does not guarantee that we are talking about the same thing.

    However, it is true that a language is more than a meaning; it is a system of values, and brings closeness in cooperation and a very important perspective of unity in this era.

    In this sense, last year we launched the CANOA project, which seeks cultural cooperation between sister institutions in Latin America. The founding partners are the Caro y Cuervo Institute, from Colombia; UNAM, from Mexico; the Inca Garcilaso Centre, from Peru, and the Cervantes Institute. It is a project that arouses special interest.

     

    Where does the future of the Spanish language lie?

    In pan-Hispanicism and science.

    In terms of the former, through a conception of the language and of culture in Spanish as a bridge that unites all Spanish-speaking countries. We must feel ourselves to be, not owners, but participants in an Ibero-American community of clear Hispanic predominance. The fact that there is a common language among 21 countries is a great treasure.

    Regarding the latter, the future of Spanish will not be understandable if it is not linked to the development of the field of science and technology. We need more science with Spanish DNA. And the most poetic thing of all, as the director of the Cervantes Institute, Luis García Montero, says, is money. The British Council was founded in 1934 and has a budget of more than 1.3 billion euros; the Cervantes Institute was created in 1991 and receives 60 million euros from public funds.

     

  • 02 April 2020

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    FIIAPP Expatriates: Alberto Herrera

    'This experience is posing a fascinating challenge'

    The twinning coordinator, Alberto Herrera

    Alberto Herrera, coordinator of the Twinning project ‘Strengthening the Competition Authority of Albania, tells us about his experience as an FIIAPP expatriate.       

    What was your arrival in Albania like? Do you remember anything amusing at that time?

    The start of the Twinning project was at the end of last July, specifically on the 23rd, coinciding with the start of the summer holiday period preferred by the Albanians, which, as in Spain, and due to the high temperatures, is the month of August. 

    As a result, throughout that month, my team (made up of an assistant and an interpreter) and I were working practically alone, which, having recently arrived and working in a foreign institution, made the beginnings a little more complicated. 

    On one occasion, we even got locked inside the building of the project beneficiary institution, the Competition Authority of Albania. Those in charge of closing the facilities at the end of the day, seeing that the usual Albanian staff had left, proceeded to lock up, forgetting that “the Spanish”, as my collaborators (also Albanian) called us, were still working. We had a hard time finding the person with the keys, but we took it all with great humour. 

    Apart from that, I would highlight the complicated times as a result of the earthquake suffered in the Tirana-Durrës region, in the early hours of 25-26 November, and the strong aftershocks that occurred for more than a week. 

    And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you?

    Tirana is generally a pleasant and peaceful city, full of cafés, restaurants and terraces. Albanians have a warm, Mediterranean character: they like to enjoy public spaces and gather around a good table or chat for hours in cafés. Their cuisine is highly elaborate and the result of an interesting mix between the country’s Balkan heritage and Italian, Turkish and Greek influences. The variety and quality of its fish is particularly striking, which for a person from the coast like me, a native of Cartagena, Spain, is really appreciated. 

    The main adaptation problems come from the different cultural codes, and from the difficulty communicating. In this regard, the gestural and body language (ways of agreeing, showing disagreement, etc.) is different from that used in Spain or in other countries around us, which can sometimes be puzzling.  

    Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it proving to be very different from your previous ones? How long have you been there and how much time do you have left?

    Apart from academic stays abroad in countries of the same historical and cultural context, such as Portugal, this is my first long-term work experience in another country. 

    Given that the project started at the end of July 2019 and is expected to go on for one year, I might be said to be just over halfway. 

    What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?

    My daily routine is very similar to the one I had in Spain, given that the Albanian Public Administration hours are very similar to those in our country. You start work very early and finish at a reasonable time, which makes it easier to achieve a balance between work and family. 

    What does differ a lot is the way of working with respect to my position in the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC), since my functions as Resident Twinning Adviser require constant coordination between multiple players, not only from Albania but also from Spain and, of course, from the European institutions, as it is a project funded by the European Union. 

    What is the relationship with FIIAPP like?

    FIIAPP is in charge of managing the budget and organising the trips of the experts from the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC), and of supervising and advising on the preparation of internal documents and following up on the governing administrative procedures. 

    There is therefore very close and constant collaboration with FIIAPP staff, without which it would be impossible to achieve the objectives. The functions and support provided by the FIIAPP technician in charge of this project, Ángela García-Monge, are essential. 

    Likewise, the work carried out by the personnel in charge of organising the trips of the experts participating in the activities of the Twinning project is essential. Finally, I would like to highlight the advice provided by the FIIAPP Communication department as well as the always prompt response and attention provided by Human Resources. 

    How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?

     Without a doubt, and after the first semester of the project, my experience is proving very positive. From a professional point of view, this is an opportunity to expand and diversify my CV and my job skills. 

    From a personal point of view, the experience of living in a country with a different culture and idiosyncrasy, in which people of different religions coexist in harmony, is totally enriching. 

    But as well as an opportunity, this experience is posing a fascinating challenge: leaving my comfort zone and facing new ways of thinking, working, observing and understanding life. 

    In short, realising that we are all equal, with or in spite of our differences. Or, in the words of the Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector: 

    Life is the same everywhere and people have to be people.” 

  • 12 March 2020

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    A new generation of Myanmar women is determined to move up

    We interviewed Diana Achard, Senior Advisor to the Community Police in the Myanmar Police Reform Support Project (MYPOL)

    Diana Achard, Senior Advisor to the Community Police at MYPOL

    Diana Achard is one of the three highest-ranking women in the Myanmar Police and works on the Myanmar Police Reform Support project. The project is managed by the FIIAPP and funded by the European Union. 

    Achard joined the police academy in 1984 and was assigned to the Taunggy police force in 1985, before being transferred to narcotics. There, Achard managed domestic and administrative work, but she quickly became an undercover agent. 

    In 1994, she was transferred to southern Shan, to an area known as the ‘golden triangle’ due to drug trafficking. During this stage, she was named leader of the narcotics team for southern Shan. 

    In 2008, she was promoted to captain based on her excellent record and major drug seizures under her command. This was the year when she joined the Yangon Financial and Narcotics Investigation Team (NTI). At the NTI she collaborated with all the bilateral agencies (Australian, ASEAN, India), sharing information and participating in major operations. 

    By 2012, Achard had been promoted based on an impressive track record of seizures and she was transferred to the International Relations Division within the Narcotic Drugs Division. 

    In 2017, she was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was transferred to the Transnational Crime Division (DTOC, based in Napyitaw), a unit with 110 sub-departments, including narcotics, cybercrime, human trafficking, environmental crime and part of the criminal investigation department. 

    Achard represented the Myanmar Police Forces (MPF) and Myanmar in all narcotics-related matters. 

    What was it like being a woman in the beginning? 

    Almost from the beginning I was assigned to undercover duties and handling information and confidants since there were only two women in the unit. When I left the MPF in 2018, there were twelve women in the Transnational Crime Division (DTOC), but they were mainly assigned to administrative and secretarial duties. 

    Have you faced challenges and obstacles to achieve recognition for your work? 

    It is difficult for any police officer to get a promotion, but it is particularly difficult for female officers. I was a lieutenant for seven years because I am a woman despite being responsible for major drug seizures. 

    What can women contribute to the MPF? 

    Regarding narcotics, I believe that obtaining reliable information is crucial, and civilians and informants trust women far more than they do men. What’s more, it used to be unusual to find women in undercover operations, so, we had an additional advantage. These days, it is far more common. In general, I would say that women are more persistent workers, are more meticulous and excellent at negotiation and mediation. 

    How is the MPF advancing in terms of gender integration in the police service? 

    Well, when I started in ’85 there were 2.2% women in the police force and there are now 9.6%. Little by little, women are getting recognition for their comparative advantages and skills. 

    Female investigators have now been appointed in most Yangon districts as focal points for crimes involving women and children. There are also many women in charge of mediation, negotiation, and intelligence gathering. 

    Generally speaking, I would say that women are better educated and better equipped, since the entry requirements are more rigorous (at least a two-year degree is required). On the other hand, women in the police also have more opportunities to integrate non-traditional police branches. 

    What is the main barrier for women in the MPF? 

    Access to dominant roles; no matter how capable you are, this is still dominated by men. 

    How do you see the future of women in the MPF? 

    Given that women have to choose between having a married life or the MPF, I doubt that the situation will progress in the short term. However, there may be some hope for the future. Although it is a slow process, a new generation of Myanmar women is determined to move up. 

  • 20 February 2020

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    When acetone becomes a drug: How are explosives and narcotics precursors controlled?

    We interviewed Jose Luis Martin, head of service of the precursor area of the Intelligence Centre against Terrorism and Organized Crime (CITCO). FIIAPP works with this institution through projects such as COPOLAD, a cooperation programme between the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the European Union in drug policies.

    José Luis Martín, head of service of the precursor area of CITCO

    What are precursors?

    Precursors are substances which intervene in any way in a chemical process, either to manufacture drugs, narcotics, psychotropics or to manufacture explosives. There are two types of precursors that are regulated by their own specific regulations.  These are drug precursors, on the one hand, and explosive precursors on the other.

    In what context are they used? 

    On a historical level, this scourge exists both in Spain and internationally. We are talking about drug trafficking and terrorism.

    In reference to drug trafficking, precursors are essential substances for manufacturing drugs from primary processes practically until the moment that drug is made available to the consumer.

    In reference to explosive precursors, we are now seeing that, internationally, through wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. things have evolved greatly when it comes to making explosives based on substances which are not commercially illicit.

    So, precursors are not only used illicitly…

    Not by any means. Drug and explosive precursors have an absolutely lawful and legal use. Drug precursors, for example, are used extensively at the industrial level. For example, in sectors such as medicine, veterinary medicine, paper, water purification, etc.

    As for explosive precursors, the case is practically the same. The only difference is that explosive precursors also have a particular use, for example in activities such as aero-modelling, water cleaning, etc. That is, they have a widespread use both at an industrial level and at a professional or even private level.

    Can anyone access these precursors?

    No, countries and their laws have to put limits on their use and acquisition. In the case of drug precursors, it is not easy to acquire them. There are very particular connotations. Currently, European legislation, and therefore Spanish legislation, mark three categories as being within the control of drug precursors. Category 1 refers to the regulations that control drug precursors which are themselves practically drugs, which can be merely manipulated and turned into drugs for consumption. This is a very controlled category of substances and one needs to be in possession of a licence to purchase them. Then we have category 2 which are substances that are practically essential, such as potassium permanganate, to make cocaine. The precursors of this category require registration in the registry provided that certain quantities are exceeded. And, finally, there is category 3, which has widespread use at the industrial level, over-the-counter, and no special qualification is required.

    In relation to explosive precursors, the legislation includes them in annexes. Annex I for potentially hazardous substances, which at the industrial level does not require any type of authorization but does require such authorization to access them at an individual level. Individuals who want to acquire an explosive precursor listed in Annex I of the Community regulation that regulates these substances must obtain a licence that is not easy to acquire.

    What examples of commodities can be used to make drugs or explosives?

    Acetone is a product that is used as a solvent in many products. It is used to make medicines, fibres, etc. but it is also used illegally to make drugs in almost all processes. Who doesn’t have a bottle of acetone at home? And as an explosive precursor it is a fundamental product because in combination with other products, an explosive can be made. In fact, we can say that making an explosive is actually simple, but fortunately, handling and storing them is much more complex.

    When do the use of precursors become a crime and how do you act against it?

    National legislation very clearly defines the crimes that can be committed with drug and explosive precursors. That is, the mere possession of these products does not constitute a criminal act. What does constitute it evidently is if it can be proved that such possession is destined for illegal use. Our job as Police and as Civil Guards is to prove if such possession is going to be used illegally.

    In addition to the security forces, many actors are involved in this control process. Not only nationally. There are many agencies and many people involved in this control. I would like to emphasize that a fundamental part of the work belongs to the Member States of the European Union. Periodically, more and more frequently, working groups of specialists on both drugs and explosives are being convened to see what there is in existence outside European borders, for example, in Latin America or in Africa. And logically, according to those meetings we have, conclusions are drawn and action is taken.

    Lately we are seeing how precursors can be controlled without harming trade, since it is fundamental. We, at the police level, would like to have everything inspected, but we know that this cannot be the case for commerce and industry since they are products that are used, as I said, on an absolutely daily basis.

    For our part and in close collaboration with the chemical industry, whose support work is absolutely fundamental, we are holding many work meetings and informative meetings for the population and businesses.

    I would also like to take the opportunity to say that we have a permanent telephone number for information about suspicious transactions, which is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 915 37 27 66. There, if you have any doubts, or if there is any suspicious transaction or something that is not quite right that an individual has been buying, or is interested in, a product that can be used to make explosives, please pick up the phone and let us know and we will manage it from there onwards.

    How important are precursors internationally and how do you work on them?

    The control of such substances is internationally very significant. I remember the last COPOLAD meeting a month ago in Buenos Aires and the difference in control was significant, and the importance given to these situations depended on the countries. That is, it is very important to join forces and that we all paddle in the same direction.

    Intelligence is also very important. Sharing intelligence is absolutely fundamental and we see that in the European Union’s perspective that everything is evaluated to a much higher degree and is much more controlled. But we also see the shortcomings of other countries that have difficulties or that do not have an established customs system as such, or have insufficient police, which affects us all in some way or another.

    There are, for example, illegal drug trafficking routes and drug traffickers who take advantage of the shortcomings of the countries that have such routes. Therefore, it is essential to continue with working meetings and that we all put our experiences on the table so that we all go in the same direction.

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