10 January 2019
Posteado en : Entrevista
Ignacio Miguel de Lucas Martín, fiscal de la Fiscalía especial Antidroga de la Audiencia Nacional y colaborador del proyecto EU-ACT, nos cuenta cómo se investiga el narcotráfico, ahondando en la relevancia que tiene la cooperación internacional en esta materia.
How does the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office investigate drug trafficking?
The Public Prosecutor’s Office has several Special Prosecutors, including the Special Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office, which deals with drug trafficking from two points of view. The first, we can call it the central one, is the National Court where twelve anti-drug prosecutors work on investigations related to the drug trafficking when the crime is committed by a criminal organisation that affects several provinces; these are the jurisdictional limits of the National Court and also of our Special Prosecutor’s Office. The second point of view is composed of delegates in certain provinces, for example, in Cádiz (Algeciras) where specialisation is a link or even a necessity.
Therefore, the Prosecutor’s Office investigates drug traffic especially through specialisation and experience, working very closely with the State Security Forces.
What are the main difficulties that the investigation into drug trafficking faces?
Obviously, there is a lack of resources, comparatively speaking, if we look at criminal organisations, because they have unlimited financial and human resources, while we have limited resources. They also have no barriers when it comes to making use of globalisation and of transnationality and we have to meet a series of requirements, follow legal parameters that mark our actions so that the evidence we obtain is admissible in court.
We also have an initial difficulty: the need for society to realise that drug trafficking is not a minor issue. Society must perceive that drug trafficking is a real and important threat, not only for health in terms of the damage that a certain substance can produce, but also in terms of security, and the integrity of our institutions.
In my opinion, in many cases drugs are frivolised and that has a consequence: drug trafficking is perceived as something that does not directly harm citizens, there is no individualised victim (unless someone has a person in their family with a serious addiction). But outside of those cases, which fortunately are no longer perceived with the same visibility as before, society, I fear, does not perceive the seriousness of the problem.
How important is the cooperation between prosecutors from different countries in the fight against drug trafficking?
It is fundamental, it is a necessary requirement. Today, drug trafficking cannot be fought simply at the national level, because it operates in the countries the drugs are produced in, those they transit and at the final destination. If action is not taken at the same time in the three areas, the only thing we get is to arrest a few people in a specific place – say Spain – who will be replaced by others tomorrow, but the suppliers that supply the substances will remain free to send drug shipments to our country.
So, obviously, if we do not dismantle the entire chain, including in the countries where the drugs are produced and those they transit, we are not being effective.
How does Spain cooperate with other countries in the fight against drug trafficking?
A differentiation can be established: at the level of the European Union, we have a common legal framework, and in many cases also a direct mutual recognition of judicial decisions. There is, therefore, direct contact between judges and prosecutors and we share a level of guarantees.
If we talk about Latin America, although it might seem different because of the common culture and language, the situation is much more dispersed. There is no such degree of mutual trust, institutions do not always have the same strength… so the work is more complex. We must try to establish platforms, mechanisms that allow that trust and that direct communication to be generated between prosecutors.
So, how does the Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office work with Latin America?
From the National Court we lead a network of anti-drug prosecutors in Latin America that is made up of 16 anti-drug prosecutors and with contact points in all countries. Through the network we try to establish these channels of communication among prosecutors in a fluid, frequent, agile and secure way to exchange information and also to coordinate investigations. This network, established in 2014, requires a lot of maintenance work, but it also bears fruit.
The Network of Black Sea prosecutors has emerged as a result of the prosecutors’ network in Latin America, which is sponsored by the EU-ACT project managed by FIIAPP.
That’s right. This network follows exactly the same parameters as the Ibero-American Network, that is, mutual trust, exchange of information and a common operational framework. In short, direct contact between prosecutors.
It is expected that this platform will be capable of improving cooperation between specialised prosecutors, which complements, but does not replace, the traditional mechanisms for international cooperation, which we call letters rogatory.
A letter rogatory is a way to legally introduce the evidence obtained in another country, but in many cases they are slow and that needs to be improved. How? Through more flexible mechanisms that allow direct communication, exchange of spontaneous information and colleagues from other countries to have information quickly.
Is the situation of the prosecutors in these countries comparable to that of the countries in the Ibero-American Network?
It is not comparable. Some of these countries do not have specialised prosecutors and they are more rigid than in Latin America. There are also structures that must be strengthened.
One of the biggest challenges of this network is to overcome this rigidity, which is not about replacing, but complementing, getting information to be shared through other channels. The rigidity slows down the process.
If I send a request from here to the Ukraine it goes from this Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office to the central authority, from there they send it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Justice, from there to the international cooperation unit and from there to the specialised prosecutor; this is a long journey. When, in fact, it is only a question of the prosecutor here communicating with the one there and transmitting the information, so that the prosecutor there has the information and can use it.
How and when did the Black Sea Network emerge?
It arose in September 2018 in Odessa, where it was constituted with representatives from the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Romania and Moldova. It arose from the common need of all prosecutors to address a problem that is not national, but transnational and requires cooperation from all countries.
Have results been obtained yet?
Yes, it is already bearing fruit. It is surprising that in such a short space of time some prosecutors have already been able to identify common investigations, transnational investigations and have already had the will to share information.
What role did FIIAPP play in the creation of this network?
A decisive role. Without FIIAPP and without the EU-ACT project, the network would not have been able to emerge. Because it has given them a chance, it has presented them with an idea, a platform and it has been able to provide examples. The idea was explained to them well, they have understood it and they considered it would work. In addition, it is giving them the resources, accompanying them so that they can start it up. But, above all, and for me this is the fundamental thing, it has been able to say: you have a need that you are dealing with in this way, but you can approach it better from this other way. And the countries have understood this.
25 October 2018
Posteado en : Entrevista
Javier Navarro, National Police inspector and technical expert on the FIIAPP programme to support the Bolivian special force fighting drug trafficking, shows us in this interview how complicated it is to pursue the production and illegal trafficking of coca leaf in Bolivia, where it is grown and consumed legally
How do people see the coca leaf in Bolivia?
The production and consumption of coca leaves are deeply rooted in society and its customs. The Plurinational State of Bolivia has acknowledged that there are 20,000 ha of coca plants being grown in two main areas: Las Yungas, in the department of La Paz, and Chapare, in the tropical region of Cochabamba. Producers are registered and are entitled to grow one “cato” of coca (1,600m2). The coca leaf they grow then goes to a cooperative and from there onto the legal market, either for personal consumption, called “picheo”, i.e., balls of coca leaves are put into the mouth and the juice sucked out of them, or for coca mate, sweets and other products. All that comes from these areas is considered legal cultivation. The Government also has to manage the eradication of coca leaves in places where their cultivation is not authorised.
How does it become illegal?
Logically, not all the production goes onto the legal market; some of it follows parallel routes and is used to make coca paste. The paste is the result of adding other elements to the coca to produce cocaine hydrochloride.
Also, it should be remembered that Bolivia is not only a producer, it is also a transit country, as paste arrives from Peru, another producing country that has some 45,000 ha of coca cultivation.
So, what is the profile of a coca leaf producer in Bolivia?
It is, purely and simply, that of a farmer, who, with one “cato” of coca, earns just enough to make a modest living. That is the reality and what I see. Can this coca leaf subsequently be processed or go to an illegal market? It may do, but the producer par excellence does not have the profile of a trafficker.
The producers produce it as part of their basic subsistence economy, to live decently with their families, and producers are different from traffickers. Maybe this would be the smallest link, the lowest on the chain, where a producer is making it illegally.
What resources does Bolivia have to prevent illegal trafficking?
The government has the Bolivian police force, especially the Special Forces to Combat Drug Trafficking, a vital ally in the fight against drug trafficking. These are special squads that are found all over Bolivia and they try to prevent drug trafficking from intensifying.
What is the role of the project in this network?
The project tries to provide support and strengthen departments and institutions linked with drug trafficking by bolstering their skill sets through technical assistance (legal, protocol, manuals), for which we co-opt experts in the short term from the National Police and Civil Guard in addition to French experts. The latter give assistance in very specialised areas, to strengthen the aspects that they consider necessary. Specifically, five themes are dealt with: criminal investigation, intelligence, borders and airports, and related crimes (money laundering and people trafficking and smuggling).
What are the prospects for the future?
The project is solid and well established; in fact, it is the institutions that turn to it so that they can become stronger in the areas they consider the weakest. This year, we have been working on all the areas to consolidate them and strongly reinforce them and next year will see the final implementation.
We also hope that, logically, when this first part of the project ends there can be a second part, as this would be very important, so that we could continue to strengthen these areas and move forward and improve all the Bolivian institutions.
06 September 2018
Posteado en : Reportage
How do you fight against drug trafficking in a coca leaf producing country? We know the case of Bolivia together with the project to support institutions in this task
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states in its report on coca leaf crops in Bolivia that the country has more than 20,000 legal hectares. An extension concentrated on two main areas: the area of the Yungas, in the Department of La Paz; and the area of Chapare, in the Tropic of Cochabamba.
The UNODC thus provides information to the Bolivian government on the amount and geographical location of the crops, since part of the coca leaf is diverted to illicit trafficking. The Bolivian Police and other institutions involved are trying to avoid this product becoming an international drug. This report allows them to develop strategies and policies for their control.
These institutions also have the support in this task of a project managed by the FIIAPP , in coordination with the National Council for the Fight against Illicit Drug Trafficking (CONALTID), with funds from the European Union and the AECID (Spanish International Development Cooperation Agency). And the paradox is even more difficult to tackle when the coca leaf is a cultural product.
The farmer is not the trafficker
Javier Navarro is one of the experts of the project. The Spanish National Police inspector recalls that “the consumption of coca leaf is something that is deeply rooted in their customs.” In Bolivia, the product is consumed directly with the acullico (chewing the coca leaf itself with other products that sweeten it) or is used for yerba mate or sweets.
Its production is managed through cooperatives. Each registered farmer has the right to grow one cato (1,600 square metres plot) of coca. The product would reach the legal market after going through the cooperative. The problem is that not all production follows that path.
Part of the coca leaf enters “parallel circuits” and with it the base paste from which cocaine hydrochloride comes out is made. Once this substance is obtained, we speak of trafficking itself, explains the police inspector. There are also illegal crops “in border areas or areas that are difficult to access”.
None of the farmers, however, cooperate on this, they just live on it. “The producer does not have the profile of a trafficker,” says Navarro, and even if they acted unlawfully, they would be the smallest link in the entire drug trafficking chain.
Javier Navarro also points out that “Bolivia is not only a producer, but also a transit country”, mainly due to geographical issues. The base paste comes to the country from Peru, which is also a producer, to carry out the so-called “purification” in laboratories.
And he provides an important fact: “One kilo of cocaine hydrochloride costs 2,500 dollars in Bolivia. When it arrives in Spain, it costs 35,000 dollars.” Once again, Spain acts as a transit country: from here cocaine is exported to France, Italy or Great Britain with the resulting price increase. A journey that makes it a transnational problem.
What is the aim of the project?
To deal with this problem, members of the Civil Guard and the National Police work on this project with Bolivian officers in the fight against drug trafficking and related crimes, such as money laundering and human trafficking. Action is additionally taken at borders and airports.
In particular, the Special Force to Fight against Drug Trafficking is formed, specialised units spread over several areas of Bolivia. Drug trafficking is the dominant sector in organised crime. The changes in its methods of organisation and action require constant adaptation in the devices and strategies fighting this problem.
This training that has been complemented by visits to Spain to learn about the procedures of the Spanish security forces, for example, in intelligence and criminal investigation.
After two years of work, “the project is consolidated and it is the institutions themselves that come to it”, explains Javier Navarro. Among other things, the investigations have been addressed in a more comprehensive way. This is, according to the inspector, to not only stop the trafficker, but also to have the organisations dismantled.
This work is completed with the citizens’ awareness through some communication activities. The last of these, a workshop for journalists in which they worked on how to adequately communicate on such sensitive issues.
Projects for a transnational problem
Until recently, the FIIAPP managed a similar project in Peru , an example of good results with the dismantling of more than one hundred criminal organisations dedicated to illicit drug trafficking. The Foundation is also present in this operational dimension with the SEACOP project, for the fight against maritime drug trafficking.
There are also regional programmes to add to the public policies of Latin American countries. This is the case of EL PAcCTO against transnational organised crime or COPOLAD , which covers the social and health dimension.
Other projects follow the most important drug trafficking routes, such that of as heroin. EU-ACT operates in 30 countries in Central Asia, the East Coast of Africa and Eastern Europe, and works to improve the effectiveness of police and judicial bodies, as well as to prevent drug use.
30 August 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
Juan Antonio Aunión, from El País, explains his experience in the journalistic reporting workshop he led in Bolivia as part of the project against drug trafficking and human trafficking
Few jobs have such a frenetic pace as that of a journalist. Day-to-day urgencies rarely leave room for reflection on our own work, to think carefully about the things we fail at, the things we do well in, and especially about what we can do to improve. That is why I appreciate my work as a professor at the UAM-El País School of Journalism, because it forces me to reflect on all this. It is also why I accepted, without giving it a second thought, the FIIAPP’s invitation to lead the International Workshop on journalistic reporting on the prevention of drug use and human trafficking, issues that are so important and so serious that they deserve even more care and self-criticism when dealing with them in the media. The workshop was held in La Paz, Bolivia, in coordination with the Coordination Secretariat of CONALTID and with the funding of the European Union and the AECID.
In that context, the most logical thing for me to do was to propose, from the beginning, a joint five-day reflection with the participants, about twenty professionals from the Bolivian press, radio and television. Precisely, the diversity of the group (not only because they came from different media, but also because some were very young, newcomers to the trade, while others were seasoned journalists with decades of experience behind them) ended up contributing enormously to the workshop. But it was also the main difficulty, solved, in any case, by the chosen format: brief presentations accompanied by many examples of reference texts, a format which allowed us to immediately put into practice all the ideas and techniques presented, along with a lot of interaction and a lot of dialogue.
This practical task consisted of writing a report about drug use or human trafficking. This enabled us to review the entire journalistic process, from the choice of topic, its development, documentation, field work, to the writing and editing (or in this case, proofreading). This way, we managed to delve deeper into fiction techniques that might enable us to present our work in a deeper and more attractive way, without ever losing sight of the strengths of any journalistic text: honesty, rigour, fact-checking each piece of information and giving the context needed to understand complex realities. That’s on top of striking the essential balance between professional distance and the sensitivity required when dealing with social issues in general, and drugs and human trafficking in particular.
Many of the problems that the students faced are the same ones Spanish professionals face in our daily work: how to approach the characters, how to present the story and make it attractive, what part of the information, obtained with great effort, to leave out to improve the end result, etc. However, others had to do with traits unique to Bolivia, which has its own working conditions and cultural environment, for example the bureaucratic written procedure necessary to request almost any official information. The answers that we all gave to these problems, at the peak of their experience and mine, were the most interesting part of the course, at least for me, and I think it also has a lot to do with the philosophy of the work that FIIAPP does in all the countries it is present in.
Apart from that, my objective for this course was to give the participants a series of tools to tell, in a slightly more attractive and familiar way, both the big stories, those large-scale events that the media relies on, as well as the small everyday stories, those that have to be covered at full speed, but which also deserve, apart from the essential rigour, all the care and affection we can give. Especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as those that have to do with drug use and human trafficking.
Juan Antonio Aunión, El País journalist specialising in social and educational issues
01 February 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
The project against organised crime and drug trafficking trains the institutions involved in the country
A few weeks ago, the director for Latin America and the Caribbean at EuropeAid, Jolita Butkeviciene, tweeted that “the European Union does not impose programmes, it backs national policies; this is our way of looking at cooperation”.
These statements fit perfectly with the results being achieved in the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking in Peru. This fight is being backed and supported by the European Union in an effective way through a project managed by FIIAPP, as well as additional funding amounting to 32 million euros.
In 2017, our Peruvian partners, whose national policies we back and support, achieved the best ever results in the fight against organised crime. 111 criminal drug trafficking organisations were disbanded, 78 illegal runways for transporting drugs to other countries were destroyed, and 324 cocaine laboratories were burnt down, many of them identified through intelligence work. What’s more, 22,165 hectares of coca leaves were destroyed, preventing the production of up to 204.8 tonnes of cocaine. These results are unparalleled in terms of previous years and denote a clear effort by the new Peruvian administration to improve results in this area.
The project, implemented by FIIAPP, provides training and technical assistance for the main institutions that fight against organised crime and drug trafficking in this Andean country. The Peruvian participants in this project are obtaining very good results and it has been independently verified that they are successfully applying the knowledge and tools transmitted by officials from EU member states to their Peruvian counterparts.
SUNAT Aduanas is one of the institutions being supported by this project, in this case in preventing contraband:
Also worth mentioning is the backing and support the project has given to judicial authorities to successfully resolve big national cases linked to international organised gangs, and the achievements reached in terms of intelligence, such as the creation of the first IT system to manage information to combat organized crime in Peru (SIIETID).
We live in an interconnected world and cooperation plays an essential role in resolving problems related to transnational organised crime. This influences many areas of the bi-regional European-Latin American agenda.
The problem of drug trafficking must be broken down according to its type and its impact on institutions and people. There is a large difference between a drug producing country and a drug transit or a country that consumes drugs. In Latin America, drug trafficking has a direct effect on the governability of states. The enormous amounts of money moved by organised gangs can be enough to buy governmental structures and destabilise countries—sadly, there are many examples in the region. This is without mentioning the violence it generates and the damage it does to social cohesion. In Europe, there is a deep impact in terms of crime, but it remains primarily a public health issue. Two problems which are interconnected on both sides of the Atlantic.
Through big bilateral projects managed by FIIAPP in Peru and Bolivia and regional projects like EL PAcCTO and COPOLAD, the EU backs policies aimed at combating organised crime and drug trafficking, problems which have such a large impact in both Latin America and Europe. This support is applied through an on-demand method, something which our Latin American partners really appreciate, who praise the EU’s horizontal rather than paternalistic way of working. This is definitely a recipe for obtaining good results.
In fact, this participative working method is one of the hallmarks of the ‘soft power’ approach that characterises EU cooperation. These projects, in which knowledge is shared and long-lasting links between public administrations on both sides of the Atlantic are established, are undoubtedly the best way to achieve results which are sustainable in the long term. In fact, our project has produced contact networks that are already working on researching areas related to transnational organised crime, not only between Europe and Peru but also regionally.
Public safety as a goal
However, we cannot afford to be complacent. The fight against organised crime is polycentered and involves many challenges, such as money laundering and effective collaboration between governments. To improve the quality of life of people in many Latin American countries, we need to make progress in this area as this will have a direct impact on the safety and well-being of citizens. In 2017 alone, 25,000 people were violently killed in Mexico for reasons linked to organised crime, something which should make us think about how to support our partners in the region.
Latin America is a strategic cultural and trade partner for the European Union and as such we need to a have a consistent and improved collaboration policy which helps to optimise the well-being of its population and protect the rule of law. Twenty years since its creation, there is no doubt that FIIAPP is a mature instrument that is well suited to channelling and implementing bi-regional European-Latin American cooperation projects and achieving the excellent results we are now seeing. Let’s not forget that, as outlined in the latest Elcano report, the 2016 European Global Strategy talks about a wider Atlantic space and states that the EU will try to extend cooperation and forge strong links with Latin America and the Caribbean.
Due to its extensive experience and recognition in the region, the Foundation is already a key player in achieving this goal and an important ally of European institutions in empowering the State. This is exactly why we need to keep zealously promoting the results obtained by our Latin American partners. Using facts to demonstrate that as well as strengthening our counterpart institutions on the other side of the Atlantic, more importantly, these actions improve the lives of their people.
Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the project to fight drug trafficking in Peru
More information on the project in our area on Radio Nacional de España (RNE):
12 January 2018
Posteado en : Reportage
The First Journalistic Feature Contest organised by SC-CONALTID and FIIAPP seeks to make the fight against these crimes visible within the framework of the project to support Bolivian institutions
“At 27, Noelia has experienced more than anyone of her age; she is one of the five women who are interned in the Drug Dependants ward at the San Juan de Dios Psychiatric Hospital in Cochabamba, for polydrug use…”
Thus begins Moments of pleasure in exchange for a life of suffering, the winning story in the First Journalistic Feature Contest “Prevention of Drug Taking and Fight Against the Smuggling and Trafficking of Persons”. Laura Manzaneda Barrios, a journalist for The Times in Bolivia, narrates the life of a drug addict who loses custody of her children and arrives at an institution to rehabilitate herself.
According to the Latin American Observatory on Drug Policy and Human Security, 97% of the population considers drug use to be a social problem. Moreover, the fact is that the country is the epicentre of drug trafficking.
The portrayal of positive experiences in the prevention of drug use or in the fight against the trafficking and smuggling of persons is the goal of this contest organised by SC-CONALTID and FIIAPP, within the framework of the project to support the fight against drug trafficking and related crimes.
A story that seeks to provide training for Bolivian institutions in the fields of operational criminal investigation, intelligence, the control of borders and merchandise, money and asset laundering, people smuggling and trafficking.
This last problem is the subject of the second award-winning story: I woke up from the network, I dodged people trafficking, from the presenter of Red Bolivisión Víctor Hugo Rojas Chávez.
“Accepting an unknown yet attractive person as a contact was the quickest way to misery, a ticket she acquired when answering the first “hello, how are you?” in a web chat… the rest only a game of warm and flattering words in the midst of a vibrant plague of emoticons of kisses and hearts… that was the journey that led her along this path, a path of no return and at the highest price”.
The fragment reflects the principle of the many cases of what UNICEF considers “a modern form of slavery”. The main victims of human trafficking are children, adolescents and women who are seduced for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour.
According to United Nations (UN) estimates, more than 2 million people are victims of human trafficking every year. And a study promoted by the Organization of American States (OAS) noted that Bolivia is one of the countries with the highest rate of people smuggling and trafficking in the region.
Institutional action is fundamental
The project managed by FIIAPP – funded by the European Commission and the State Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID) – focuses on the formation of Bolivian institutions so that they can cope with the problem.
Making it visible with activities like this is the first step. But there is a need for coordinated work by public and international entities. And in the end, the involvement of these institutions is fundamental. Thus, the third prize winner, professor of Social Communication (UMSA) Ramiro Reynaldo Quintanilla Ramírez, says at the end of his story: People trafficking is a silent crime that threatens Bolivia.
“Mothers will continue to look for their daughters, victims will try to extricate themselves from the horror which surrounds them and the money will never be enough to deal with such a lucrative and dangerous crime. However, there is hope for society as long as there are institutions that care about the pain of others.”
To read the full stories, click here