23-27 September 2019 - CRIMJUST held a five-day technical training for law enforcement officials from across Latin America and the Caribbean to strengthen institutional understanding of the technical and chemical processes involved in coca bush cultivation and cocaine manufacturing. Together with experts from the Integrated Illicit Crop Monitoring System Project (SIMCI) and from the National Narcotic Police of Colombia, CRIMJUST officers delivered a multidisciplinary course on devising and conducting interdiction activities in coca cultivation areas and cocaine hydrochloride laboratories. Some 45 participants attended, including 30 women and 15 men.
SIMCI experts provided participants with an overview of the production processes of cocaine from cultivation to extraction to crystallization, as well as led a series of discussions on issues related to monitoring of illicit crops, assessing coca cultivation and recovering coca conversion infrastructure. They then conducted interactive workshops on the latest field and laboratory criminal techniques employed to detect and investigate drugs and chemical substances used to produce cocaine, highlighting best practices to conduct standardized preliminary identification tests. Building upon these trainings, the Colombian Anti-Narcotics Police conducted some interdiction exercises to detect and dismantle cocaine hydrochloride laboratories and to operate in mining fields.
Additionally, over the course of the five days, a series of discussion sessions were held to allow law enforcement officials to share key drug trafficking trends affecting their countries, including methodologies, routes and modus operandi. Among others, creating communication channels and platforms to share intelligence in real time between law enforcement and judicial agencies, streamlining procedures to gather forensic evidence and updating investigation techniques and legislation to address latest drug trafficking trends were cited. These are to form the basis for future regional criminal justice cooperation.
This technical training for institutional reinforcement is part of CRIMJUST's larger efforts to support the development and implementation of comprehensive (inter)regional counter-narcotic strategies to address the recent increase of cocaine trafficking. Between 2013 and 2017, the area under coca bush cultivation has tripled in Colombia driving up the global cocaine manufacturing to a record high of 1,976 metric tons. Moreover, Colombian authorities have reported a sharp rise in coca base and paste trafficking to neighboring countries for transformation into cocaine HCl. This suggests organized crime groups are exploiting differences in national legislations and lack of coordination between national law enforcement agencies to segregate the cocaine supply chain and expand their trafficking networks. Against this backdrop, enhancing law enforcement agencies' understanding of the chemical and technical processes involved in cocaine production is central to implementing and coordinating regional counter-narcotic strategies.
CRIMJUST is funded by the European Union under the framework of the "Cocaine Route Programme" and by the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). It seeks to enhance law enforcement and judicial counter-narcotic strategies beyond interdiction activities and to foster transnational responses targeting each stage of the drug supply chain.
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