Cocaine Insights 4 launched with spotlight on COVID-19 impacts on regional and transatlantic cocaine routes through Brazil

Brasilia, 19 July 2022 - The global production of cocaine has reached record levels, amounting to 1,982 tons as of 2020. Trafficking routes are determined by production and consumption locations, and Brazil sits in the path for cocaine trafficking from South America to Africa and Europe. In the country, the measures adopted concerning covid-19 appear to have had an impact on the redistribution and management of the cocaine market domestically.

COVID-19 and its impact on the cocaine supply chain in and around Brazil is the subject of the fourth in the series of ‘Cocaine Insights’, released this tuesday (19/07) by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Centre of Excellence for Illicit Drug Supply Reduction in Brazil (CoE). The CoE is the result of a partnership among UNODC, the National Secretariat on Drug Policy and Asset Management of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security (SENAD/MJSP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Brazil.

"It is important to highlight that UNDP and SENAD, through this partnership with UNODC, have been supporting the structuring and work of the CoE, which has, as part of its mission, systematize and make available data for research and studies from various institutions. The publication 'Cocaine Insights' is a concrete example that the mission of the CoE is being achieved," says the coordinator of the CoE, Gabriel Andreuccetti.

The collaboration between UNODC and CoE in the current edition of Cocaine Insights allowed to complement results obtained in the first strategic study of the Centre of Excellence, entitled "Covid-19 and drug trafficking in Brazil: the adaptation of organized crime and the performance of police forces in the pandemic". As a result, it was possible to expand the understanding of the dynamics of drug trafficking, especially cocaine, in Brazil and in the Latin American region.

"Cocaine Insights 4 presents an expanded view based on the analysis of data from Brazil and countries involved in cocaine trafficking in the transatlantic region. The results presented are part of a global research effort to point out changes in the drug trafficking chain and in the alteration of criminal organizations' actions. In this sense, the research is a pioneer in the Brazilian context, uniting data from different police organizations and other institutions linked to the repression of drug trafficking in order to think about this set of actions in a strategic way," emphasizes the Substitute Director of Public Policy and Institutional Articulation of SENAD/MJSP, Gustavo Camilo Baptista.

During the launch, Andreuccetti explained that "the monitoring of drug trafficking in Brazil is very complex and any study on the subject requires an understanding based on evidence and a robust methodology, since the country is federative and has continental dimensions. That is why the partnership with Brazilian institutions in the integration and collection of data is so important, as well as the partnership with international research agencies such as the Research and Analysis Branch of UNODC, in Vienna, for the analysis and development of this study", said the coordinator of the CoE.

Changes and trends - Cocaine Insights 4 points out important changes in drug trafficking and organized crime patterns through the new contexts of the pandemic, in relation to the regional and transatlantic chain of production and distribution of cocaine. The main findings of the report were presented during the launch event by the Cocaine Research Officer in the UNODC Drug Research Section, Antoine Vella.

The publication also shows that covid-19 affected the activities of security forces, compromised the activities of organised crime groups, impacted cocaine and cannabis flows and induced changes in trafficking modalities, among other impacts on the cocaine market in Brazil and in the region.

COVID-19 lockdown measures in Brazil allowed law enforcement to dedicate more resources to drug interdiction. Thus, seizures of cocaine and cannabis both increased sharply in number. The report also details how cannabis supply expanded across Brazil while the impact on cocaine varied across federal units, despite an overall decline in the quantities seized. Cocaine seizures data from the country suggests that, following the onset of COVID-19, western provinces saw a rising trend of cocaine while a falling trend can be observed in the eastern provinces, as flows from seaports out of the country declined.

Cocaine Insights 4 shows that COVID-related measures brought about difficulties for organized crime groups to move imported cocaine internally towards exit ports and areas of consumption. The difficulties in cross-border transportation of cocaine likely led to a surge in clandestine flights and thus to a surge in flows into western border states.

A drop in cocaine seizures at Brazilian seaports occurred in parallel with declines in cocaine seized in destination countries, such as those in Western and Central Europe, in consignments known to have departed from Brazil. The disruption in flows from Brazil appears to have been temporary, though.

Cocaine Insights 4 also paints a picture of COVID accelerating already existing trends in cocaine trafficking. COVID forced law enforcement agencies in Brazil to adapt and hampered some police activities, yet conversely prompted lockdown measures that facilitated drug interdiction on roads. Along with this, the report details how cannabis availability expanded across Brazil after the onset of COVID-19, driven by big increases in flows from Paraguay.

Cocaine Insights 4 also highlights how criminal organizations continue to be more specialized and increasingly use new technologies. This complex scenario reinforces the need to continue strengthening international cooperation to address transnational organized crime in an articulate way, focusing on people and comprehensively considering economic and social aspects.

Access the Cocaine Insights 4 report HERE.

Cocaine Insights series - The series ‘Cocaine Insights,’ developed by UNODC in the framework of the CRIMJUST programme and in cooperation with partners and stakeholders at national, regional, and international levels, delivers in an accessible and informative format the latest knowledge and trends on issues related to cocaine markets: the illicit cocaine trade, its impact, and the outlook for the future. This publication is the result of a collaboration between UNODC and the CoE. Learn more HERE.


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