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Conflicting Views of Priorities Exist in U.S.-European Anti-Drug Strategy


March 1993

As evidence grows that the Italian Mafia and the Colombian drug cartels have formed a multinational conglomerate to produce and market cocaine and heroin, U.S. and European anti-drug officials find themselves at odds over priorities (Sharon Waxman, "Cartel-Mafia Exploitation of European Drug Market Flourishes," The Dallas Morning News, 2/11/93, 27A).

While the existence of the cartel-mafia link is now accepted law enforcement, U.S. officials express frustration that European anti-drug officials are more interested in combating heroin traffic than in fighting cocaine traffic. U.S. authorities have accused the Europeans of being passive in the face of a growing influx of cocaine.

But Alain Couic, commissioner of France's anti-drug brigade, said the Europeans are not passive. "I'm sure that cocaine is a real problem in France and Europe," Couic said. "But for us, the main problem of Europe was and remains heroin." There are an estimated 100,000 heroin addicts in France, compared to between 10,000 and 20,000 cocaine users, according to The Dallas Morning News.

"Americans are fixated on cocaine and they are trying to drag Europe into the same battle as if Europe has the same problem," commented Alain Labrousse, director of the Paris-based Geopolitical Observatory for Drugs. "They keep saying, 'You're going to get crack,' and we don't have the impression that there's much more being consumed. Our Colombia is Pakistan -- 75 percent of our heroin comes from Pakistan via Iran. But they never talk about this in the press."

U.S. officials estimate that 200 tons of cocaine flows into Europe from Colombia, selling at a wholesale price of $35,000 to $50,000 per kilogram, about double the average price in Miami. The mafia and the cartels have traded both expertise and drugs, so that thousands of acres of poppies are now being cultivated in Colombia, and heroin and cocaine are routinely swapped in Europe.

Shipment of drugs has been facilitated by the economic integration of the European community, with fewer border controls between European nations. Small cocaine shipments have been replaced by shiploads, with officials seizing only a small fraction of what comes in. In 1980, only 240 kilograms of cocaine were seized throughout Europe, compared to 16,000 kilograms in 1992.