Cocaine in Rotterdam and the war against gangs in El Salvador

Rotterdam – Europe’s largest port  – has a growing problem with cocaine shipping. A record almost 70t of the drug was seized there in 2021, 74% more than the year before. Rotterdam and Antwerp in neighbouring Belgium were used by a Dubai-based “super-cartel” supplying a third of cocaine to Europe, Europol reported last month. More than 70 people, including gang members and port employees, have already been arrested for trafficking offences at the port this year.

Since Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele declared war on gangs eight months ago, approximately 2% of the country’s adult population  – approximately 100,000 people – are now in prison. According to Tiziano Breda, an Central America Crisis Group expert, this policy against gangs seems to be working, and murder rates in the country are falling. In contrast, according to a Human Rights Watch report published on 7 December, there have been widespread human rights violations – torture and ill-treatment in detention and arbitrary arrests when police and military have turned up in low-income neighbourhoods. Bukele himself garnered 86% support in a CID Gallup poll of 12 Latin American countries in October, making him the most popular leader in the region.

US border patrol agencies have reported an increase in the amount of fentanyl being trafficked across the border since President Joe Biden eased restrictions earlier this year. According to the New York Post article, following the easing of restrictions, border patrol agencies have observed a “dramatic increase in the number of single adults” attempting to cross the border, as well as an increase in migrants smuggling drugs across the border. Fentanyl is highly addictive and can cause death if overdosed or mixed with other substances such as alcohol or heroin.

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