UN says terrorists, criminals benefiting from increase in cocaine, opium production

)The UN says terrorist organisations and criminal groups have been profiting from a sharp increase in the production of cocaine and opium.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Thursday that coca bush cultivation went up by nearly 30 per cent between 2013 and 2015 because of a coca boom in Colombia, the Vienna-based UN agency said in its annual report on global trends.

The UN drug experts wrote that as a result, “cocaine use appears to be increasing in the two largest markets, North America and Europe.”

The amounts of cocaine that was seized in Asian countries increased by 40 per cent in 2015.

The 2016 data are not yet available.

Coca acreage doubled in Colombia because of high market prices for coca leaves, and because authorities stopped spraying coca plants to kill them.

UNODC chief researcher Angela Me told reporters that in 2016’s peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces rebels and the government also played a role.

Drug trafficking groups as well as rebel groups have been involved in Colombia’s coca business.

The peace deal foresees support for farmers who switch to legal crops.

Me said: “before the deal was reached, there were some that started to cultivate, thinking that […] some alternative development aid would be given to those communities that were cultivating.”

Meanwhile, global production of opium, which is used to make heroin, jumped by 30 per cent in 2016, mainly because of a better Afghan poppy harvest, which followed a particularly weak yield in the previous year.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium producer, and the Taliban terrorist group controls this business in the country.

The Taliban make between 150 million and 200 million dollars a year from taxing opium farmers and smugglers, accounting for up to half of the extremists’ annual income, according to the UNODC.

“Africa seems to be experiencing some of the sharpest increases in heroin use” of any world region, the UN drug experts wrote.

Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Nigeria and Ivory Coast have seen rising numbers of drug users because they are part of the so-called southern trafficking route that connects Afghanistan and Europe.

In the United States, increasing inflows of Mexican heroin in 2015 have exacerbated the epidemic abuse of synthetic opium-type drugs.

Some 33,000 people in the US died from opioid overdoses that year.

The UNODC also reported an expansion of the market for amphetamine-type stimulants, especially in Asia, cannabis trafficking has remained stable in recent years.

A large share of cannabis seizures are taking place in North and South America, as well as Northern Africa.

In Europe, the Netherlands and Albania are the biggest producers.

An estimated 183 million people use cannabis, far more than amphetamines (37 million), opium-type drugs (35 million), ecstasy (22 million) or cocaine (17 million).

Some 190,000 people die annually from taking drugs.

Opioids including heroin pose the highest health risks, including hepatitis, tuberculosis and AIDS.(dpa/NAN)

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