For years, West African cocaine traffickers have worked as mules for Latin American drug cartels seeking to smuggle their powder to Europe. But now the mules are going independent — and muscling their former bosses out of some of the world’s most in-demand drug turf.
According to a report released this week by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, West African drug smugglers are playing a more direct role in trafficking the $1.25 billion worth of cocaine moving through the region every year. Most of the region’s cocaine still originates with Latin American cartels like the FARC, but these cartels’ direct involvement in trafficking drugs through Africa to Europe has declined. In their place, West African trafficking groups are building their own narcotics transport and distribution systems, pushing out the Latin Americans, and are now producing their own methamphetamine on a large scale.