• 12 January 2018

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    Posteado en : Reportage

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    Stories about a problem: drug trafficking and people trafficking in Bolivia

    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.

     

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    Laura Manzaneda receives first prize

    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

  • 27 October 2017

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    FIIAPP expatriates: Santiago Santos Benitez

    “The city of La Paz is about 3,600 metres above sea level, which is an initial handicap for the adaptation process.”

    We turn our attention to fieldwork and look at Bolivia through the eyes of Santiago Santos Benitez, the technical coordinator of the project European support for the special counter-narcotics police force in Bolivia in application of the law.

    How have you adapted to this country?

    Well, I’ve really been working in Bolivia for 15 years. I spent two years in the north of the country, in Riberalta, Department of Beni. I knew Bolivia quite well and I’d been to La Paz several times.

     

    The city of La Paz is about 3,600 metres above sea level, which is an initial handicap for the adaptation process. Whether or not you have already lived in this city, you have to acclimatise every time you return. As to other issues, it should be noted that Bolivians are very polite, friendly people, so adapting to Bolivian society is very easy. The culture, their ways of working, in fact we have lots of similarities that make the process easier.

     

    La Paz is a city in the Chuquiago Marka valley so it is “protected” by mountain chains. This squeezes the city somewhat and limits its growth. This factor has made its urban growth very disorganised, creating a city set in the midst of chaos. When you walk around La Paz, you find myriads of streets and historical buildings alongside tall skyscrapers. At the beginning it can seem somewhat stifling; however, over time the chaos becomes this city’s special attraction.

     

    What was most difficult for you and what was least difficult?

    Personally, and this is not always true for everyone, it was adapting to the altitude that was the greatest handicap for me. La Paz is surrounded by high mountains and is constantly split up by steeply sloping streets, which in the beginning can be somewhat discouraging.

     

    The easiest thing, let’s say, is adapting to the country itself because there are many similarities between our Spanish culture and Bolivian culture. Speaking the same language also makes adaptation much easier.

     

    Is this your first experience outside of Spain?

    I’ve been working outside of Spain for almost 15 years. My first posting was to Bolivia in 2003. I’ve worked mainly in East Africa in countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania. I’ve also worked in Asia, in India and Nepal.

     

    What is your work like and your daily routine?

    We try right from the first moment to link up with social institutions in the daily routine of the project. We work at the offices of our local Bolivian partner, the Secretariat for Coordination of CONALTID (National Drug Control Council) and we have a relationship of collaborating on and coordinating all the activities that we carry out as part of this project. We also work with many other Bolivian institutions, both public and private. Although we do most of our work in the office, which increases coordination with our local partner, we are constantly travelling to other departments since the project is a national one. As well as carrying out the duties of my position as Technical Coordinator, I also coordinate courses on combating people smuggling and trafficking. This means that I have to actively take part in these courses, many of which are held in other cities away from La Paz.

     

    What is your relationship with headquarters in Madrid?

    This is a fundamental aspect of the smooth running of the project. There is direct daily communication with Sergio Garrido, who is the person who handles all the economic management of the project from Madrid. Although we have a time difference of 6 hours between Madrid and La Paz we maintain very smooth, daily communication, which is very necessary for the smooth running of the activities. But we do not only work in coordination with Sergio, we also have the support of Mariano Guillén, Director of the Security and Justice Department, who gives us constant support. Another key department for cooperative relations between Bolivia and Spain is Communications. Through our colleagues, we publicise our activities in Spain, which plays a vital role not only in showing what is really happening in Bolivia and our link with the country through the project but also in public accountability.

     

    What about your colleagues in Bolivia?

    Teamwork and coordination are a cornerstone of keeping the project running smoothly. The team is made up of 6 people. There are three Spaniards and one French colleague. We also have the support of two Bolivian colleagues who have administrative and logistical duties and help us all the time with all the paperwork for bringing in foreign experts for the training courses that we carry out.

     

    How would you evaluate your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate in Bolivia?

    The FIIAPP is an institution with great experience in this type of project, which means working with highly specialised people. It is also an extremely professional organisation, which makes the work very much easier.

     

    Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in the country?

    At the beginning, there were three public institutions participating in the project; however, little by little the number of institutions has increased. At the moment, we are working with about 20 institutions, including civil society. This is a real handicap when coordinating activities, courses and other things planned as part of the project. In my case, and it can be said that I have worked on dozens of projects, this is the first time that I found myself in the situation of dealing with such a wide range of institutions.

  • 03 September 2015

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “The EU has a very powerful security strategy right now”

    The head of FIIAPP's Security and Justice team explains the Foundation's work in the fight against drug trafficking and the EU's anti-terrorism efforts.

    Ensuring the security of citizens is a major objective in FIIAPP’s work. All over the world, the Foundation develops cooperation projects funded by the European Commission in the areas of security, the fight against drug trafficking, the eradication of terrorism and money laundering, and the prevention of natural disasters and nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical threats.

    The experience exchanges it facilitates between European Union member states and the beneficiaries result in changes to laws, regulations and working strategies that enable the receptor countries to offer a more secure life to their citizens.

    In this conversation, Ana Hernández fills us in on the details of the work of the Foundation in the fight against drug trafficking and other areas in this sector, and how the European Union, in response to the current context, has put the focus on preventing radicalisation and terrorism.

     

    Where is FIIAPP’s work concentrated in terms of illegal drug trafficking and why?

    We are focused mainly on the Cocaine Route, which theoretically runs from Latin America to Europe, through Africa; and on the Heroin Route, which runs from Afghanistan and has one branch through Asia and another through the Black Sea. These are the two routes we concentrate on for developing projects, because the Commission is focused on these two routes.

     

    What do we do there?

    Right now we have many types of projects. In the ‘Cocaine Route’, we have projects focused both on ports and container control, and on fighting money laundering of the proceeds of drug trafficking. In Latin America, through AMERIPOL, we are also trying to create a new police network in Latin America. This means applying a global approach to the fight against drug trafficking. In the ‘Heroin Route’, we’ve also been working on human trafficking and on the creation of information networks so that police forces can exchange information and conduct monitoring.

     

    Are more and more projects of this type being funded?

    The European Union has a very powerful security strategy right now and is funding large projects. What we’ve observed is that they are funding large-scale projects: they want various member countries to join together to develop these projects with a more global approach to contribute their experience, along with Spain, to other countries—for example, Ghana or Venezuela—with very different idiosyncrasies, so that they can benefit from this knowledge. In the end, this means creating networks, creating links, learning together. Often, when it’s our policies or our civil guards that are going to these countries, you realise that there are many things over there that they can learn from, and synergies and good relationships end up being created.

     

    Is the EU starting to work in new areas?

    Lately they are focusing on issues related to terrorism. Large-scale programmes are being launched to fight terrorism, and radicalisation is being attacked. The EU is realising the great power terrorist groups have in communication media, on the Internet, and in all these networks, for getting their messages out, and that many people who were not radical are becoming radicalised, being recruited… So they’re making a great effort in this area. In fact, one of the large projects for which we have submitted a proposal recently is specifically on the issue of radicalisation. Although it’s also true that this aspect is included in all terrorism projects.

    Another issue being addressed increasingly in Europe is cybercrime. It’s an issue which is rising in importance and which, evidently, is being developed increasingly and has great potential.

    And, lastly, the EU is working on the fight against money laundering. This is also important because of its role in financing terrorism and organised crime. The fight against money-laundering and financing networks, which in the end is what feeds these groups, is also a way of eradicating this problem.

  • 10 July 2015

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Searching for Cocaine at the Port of Callao (Peru)

    Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the EU project to combat drug trafficking in Peru, witnesses an operation conducted by the Peruvian port authorities at the Port of Callao.

    It’s 6:15 in the morning and we are at the entrance to the loading docks at the Port of Callao, around 25 kilometres north of Lima. There is a quite odd and steady flow of workers, stevedores, seamen, customs officials, contractors and other people that you really can’t tell what they do at a port, which employs over 5,000 people and is one of the largest ports on the American continent. One of the characters milling around the port approaches me and asks me for a cigarette, I offer him the last one in my pack, telling him to keep it and that I’m going to give up anyway. Oddly, it’s the same brand as he usually smokes, or so he tells me. The guy smiles and asks me where I’m from, I tell him that I’m from Iceland, that usually means that people will leave me alone and not bother me with talk about Barça and Madrid. It’s very early and I got up at 4:15 am.

    Here the days begin way before dawn and you never know when they will end, today is the second week of the course that we have organised on searching ships and shipping containers for drugs. Two German customs officials have come along to teach the primarily practical activities. From their height and build, it’s obvious that they are not from this land. Both the instructors and the students are excellent and have achieved some unbeatable results.

    It’s calculated that 60% of the cocaine that currently arrives in Europe comes from Peru. The majority of this substance is transported to its destination by sea. It normally arrives at the commercial ports and recreational harbours of Spain, Belgium or Holland. Drug traffickers are usually ahead of the curve in terms of techniques for hiding drugs. We have seen everything from clothing impregnated with cocaine, drugs hidden in the stomachs of frozen fish or in babies’ nappies – anything goes.

    No less surprising or dramatic is the situation faced by some people in Peru who become involved in this illegal trade, most due to need but others due to greed. From the poor farmer who is under a death threat to grow the coca plant (both he and his family) from the narco-terrorist group Shining Path; the young person forced to work in a chemical laboratory in the jungle to make base paste and who is a target of bombing by the army (something which is not reported in newspapers); the single mother who, to pay her bills, swallows 74 bags of cocaine and is arrested on arrival in Europe because she has been reported by the very same organisation that it trying to smuggle in other “drug mules” on the same flight and so wants to distract customs officials; to other more tragic situations that I prefer not to go into. It’s hard when you see the human faces involved in this business to get the ‘product’ to the end user.

    Of course, the protagonists of the previous paragraph are just cannon fodder for this business. In reality, the real beneficiaries of this illegal industry are the large criminal organisations, fiscal paradises and certain powers that be, which have no regard for the human repercussions of this issue.

    With a view to disrupting this illicit trade, the European Union has launched a project to support the fight against drug trafficking in Peru, led by FIIAPP, in collaboration its partners, the law enforcement agencies of Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Czech Republic. The objective of this project is to improve the air, land and sea drug interception capabilities, as well as improving capabilities for obtaining intelligence, investigating and prosecuting drug lords.

    At the time of writing this post, as part of one the project’s activities, we are working at the Port of Callao alongside the institutions responsible for drugs seizures at Peruvian port, namely customs, police, public prosecutors and coast guard.

    As I said at the start, in the morning we build a profile of suspicious ships and containers, then we later carry out the practical search activities on them to see what we can find. For example, the port intelligence unit passed us some information about a container carrying frozen corn, passion fruit pulp and Rocoto pepper (very spicy) to Spain. Come on! As if there isn’t enough corn in Spain or it is cheaper to bring it frozen in a refrigerated container from Peru – it just doesn’t make sense. So we set the container aside to be searched. The students on the course disassemble the container’s refrigeration system and check the load and, indeed, among the corn and passion fruit pulp we find a suspicious box containing a security seal and instructions on how to apply it. This means that at some point between Callao and Spain, this container would be opened, loaded with cocaine and the new security seal would then installed. An investigation is currently ongoing into who placed the new security seal inside the container and into other issues relating to the container’s origin and destination. Curiously, a worker from the loading area in which the container was stored has disappeared and no one seems to know where he is.

     

    At the end of the day we attend a debriefing session, where everyone explains what they have learned and how it can be replicated in their units. The idea behind this project is that every time you train someone, that person in turn conveys the knowledge gained to other members of the department to which they are assigned.

    As night falls, our day’s session comes to an end and we make our way back to Lima, in rush hour traffic it will take us at least another hour to get home. Tomorrow we will begin again at dawn, I wonder what we will find…

    Gerard Muñoz Arcos – Coordinator of the EU-ENLCD Project (Videoblog)