Mexican cartels have moved into North and West Africa, a former DEA official said, taking advantage of the upheaval in the region to move drugs into Europe.
"Mexican cartels are not sitting around waiting for other global drug traffickers to reap all the profits of the emerging European and Soviet markets," observed former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Operations Chief Michael Braun in an interview with El Universal earlier this week.
Not only does the euro buy more than the dollar, he said, but the lack of state control over huge regions in North Africa has created an open invitation for Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) to operate there.
Analysts have been observing the expansion of Latin American DTOs in North and West Africa even before the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) released a special report calling attention to the issue in 2007.
Since 2003, Colombian traffickers have been observed in African nations ravaged by war and poverty, like Guinea-Bissau, where the DTOs benefit from weak law enforcement and government controls. Over the next several years, the discovery of rogue jet aircraft loaded with cocaine -- like a Cessna 441 that landed in Sierra Leone in 2007 -- also pointed to the increased importance of Africa as a transhipment point between Europe and South America.
Behind the scenes are traffickers like Colombian Daniel Barrera, alias 'El Loco,' who is based in Venezuela and is believed to control much of the network that coordinates boats and aircrafts from Venezuela to Europe, possibly using Africa as a transit hub.
InSight takes a look at some of the key events over the past decade that point to the increased influence of Mexican and Colombian cartels in Africa.