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Security Brief: CRIME Week of June 21, 2021

Week of Monday, June 21, 2021 | Issue 16

Ciro Mazzola, Katelyn Ferguson, Crime Team


Drug Trafficking Caribbean Sea[1]


Date: June 16, 2021

Location: Brazil

Parties involved: Brazilian Navy; Drug Traffickers

The event: Brazilian authorities made a record seizure of 4.3 metric tons of marijuana resin (hashish) on a Portuguese boat as it crossed international waters around 420 km from the port city of Recife. The last time that Brazilian authorities made a similar seizure was January 2019, when they arrested two Portuguese men transporting two tons of hashish. However, over the last year, drug traffickers have reportedly established a trans-Atlantic route from Africa to Brazil in order to exchange hashish for cocaine.[2]

The implications:

  • It is unclear how big Brazil’s hashish market is. Hashish is sold for approximately triple the value of marijuana in the country, implying that the Brazilian clientele is wealthy.[3] The recent seizure of drugs from North Africa, the region where hashish is mainly produced, likely confirms the existence of a shipment route passing through the Atlantic to Brazil. It is an important development considering the fact that Paraguay is the local producer for Brazil.[4] This indicates the potential for diversification in the country’s marijuana market as Brazil will not be dependent on Paraguay for supply; authorities will have to pay attention to this as this recent attempt to traffick hashish from Africa is unlikely to remain an isolated incident.

  • Another significant turn of events is the discovery that traffickers are exporting hashish from North Africa to Brazil to take advantage of its high value and trade it directly for shipments of cocaine. For instance, a Spanish drug official stated that “a kilo of hashish directly in Morocco can cost 300 euros per kilo; in the [Canary Islands], the price during this semester is 1,980 euros per kilo…in the United States, it was [once] 3,000 euros per kilo.”[5] In this manner, they likely manage to counter the costs of buying cocaine and have it shipped to Europe.[6] Whilst the lack of monetary payment might likely mean a certain decrease in illegal activities such as money laundering in Brazil, it also eliminates a possible way of tracking drug traffickers and further investigating all who participate in the criminal schemes, thus creating more obstacles for the authorities.


Date: June 21, 2021

Location: Mexico

Parties involved: Mexican Law Enforcement; Mexican Government; Mexican Drug Traffickers; Local Populations (Farmers, Merchants, Families)

The event: Brendan T. Smith has conducted a historical analysis and evolution of Mexican drug traffickers from the 20th century to the present, as well as debunked various misconceptions regarding drug trafficking in Mexico. Smith evaluates the various levels of corruption within the government, as well as local and federal police forces. Not only was there violence that occurred between law enforcement and drug traffickers, but violence has also been perpetrated between the different police forces due to power struggles (who will regulate what crimes and where).[7]

The implications:

  • A major point that Smith touched on was the lack of transparency regarding where the money that government officials are essentially extorting from drug traffickers (major corruption) is going. Genaro Garcia Luna, a Mexican public official, is on trial for corruption in the United States. During his six years in office, he increased the federal police from 6,000 to 37,000 members, and Smith believes he used money from the Sinaloa Cartel to "build the state.”[8] The corruption in Mexico is widespread, as there are many government and law enforcement officials who have been known for their affiliations with drug trafficking organizations. There are very few well-paying jobs in Mexico, which is a large part of the reason why so many people join drug trafficking organizations, and why many people engage in corruption-- as a way to supplement their income.[9] This will likely not stop until there is increased transparency within the government and law enforcement, as well as increased legitimate activities to help ensure decreased dependency on joining or affiliating with criminal organizations.

  • Another interesting point that Smith made related to the double standards that exist regarding drug trafficking in Mexico. For example, it is perceived that the violence has originated from the drug traffickers in Mexico, but not the drug traffickers coming in from the United States, or the local police. However, the police (both local and federal) have engaged in violent behavior towards drug traffickers, and other law enforcement members. Additionally, Smith found documents that indicated that Americans were responsible for bringing many firearms into Mexico and inciting much of the violence that exists there. The continued circulation of misconceptions such as that drug traffickers from the United States’ side of the border are non-violent, or that the police in Mexico use primarily nonviolent tactics, likely leads to violent encounters and false hope that the police are proactively addressing cartel violence and activity as a whole.

[1]Drug Trafficking Caribbean Sea” by Defensie licensed under Public Domain

[2] Hashish: New Player in Brazil Drug Markets, Insight Crime, June 2021, https://insightcrime.org/news/hashish-brazil-drug-markets/

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] How Mexico's Drug Trade Has Evolved Over a Century, Insight Crime, June 2021, https://insightcrime.org/news/mexico-drug-trade-evolved-century-benjamin-t-smith-the-dope/

[8] Ibid

[9] Mexican Drug Cartels Recruiting Young Men, Boys, NPR, March 2009, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102249839

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