Cablegate: Drug Trafficking and Possession Trends Challenge

Published: Tue 5 Jul 2005 10:49 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: 04 MADRID 4793
1. (SBU) The Government of Spain's National Drug Plan (PND)
latest Annual Statistical Report on Drugs reports increases
in total drug seizures (29%), trafficking arrests (11%), and
arrests for drug possession (22%) between 2003 and 2004.
Officials consider these statistics to be an indication that
Spain is making a sustained effort in its war on drugs.
However, these statistics obscure more disturbing trends in
drug trafficking and possession in Spain. Drug traffickers
are beginning to choose alternative strategies to delivering
drugs to Spain over the high seas, where they face inclement
weather conditions and Spanish maritime patrols. Now, some
smugglers more frequently traffic drugs first by storing
shipments in West Africa and then flying shipments to Spain
through third countries. Spanish traffickers also profit
from the strong Euro exchange value to buy drugs cheaply,
mainly from Latin America and North Africa, and sell them in
Spain and other European countries. The flow of drugs into
Spain is creating a domestic drug market made up of mostly
young Spanish users aged 19 to 25. Spain ranks second in the
European Union in cocaine use, and Spanish youth began
experimenting with drugs (typically marijuana) before the age
of 14, according to EU and Spanish government sources.
2. (SBU) Government officials agree that the PND has proved
ineffective at reducing drug use, especially among Spanish
teens. They have proposed to revise the PND to improve how
Spanish Police and Civil Guard coordinate their enforcement
efforts and to provide more support for drug abuse programs
targeting Spanish youth. The Zapatero government ranks the
war on drugs with the fight against organized crime and
terrorism. End Summary.
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Updated Statistics & Recent Reports on Drug Seizures
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3. (U) Following the publication of the 2004 International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the Spanish Minister of
Interior's State Cabinet of Analysis and Prospective on Drug
Trafficking, Money Laundering, and Related Crimes released
its 2004 Annual Statistical Report on Drugs. The guide
updates statistical trends on seizures of drugs and related
assets, and arrests for drug trafficking and possession.
According to the report, the Spanish National Police and
Guardia Civil (Spain's national guard) seized 33 metric tons
(mt) of cocaine (down 32% from 2003), 794 mt of hashish (up
14%), 804 mt of cannabis (up 2.4%), 797,000 units of ecstasy
(up 3%), and 271 kilograms of heroin (up 14%) in 2004. The
report notes that 53% of all seizures in 2004 involved
cannabis, 32% cocaine, 6% opium, and 6% involved stimulants.
These quantitative trends are summarized in the statistical
chart below:
Statistical Chart
Drug Category Year
2001 2002 2003 2004
Heroin (kg) 631 275 242 271
Cocaine (mt) 34 16 49 33
Hashish (kg) 514 564 727 794
MDMA (pills) 860,000 1,200,000 771,875 797,000
4. (SBU) Government officials have stated that the 2004
seizures statistics represents significant gains in their
counter-narcotics efforts, especially their enforcement
efforts to prevent drug deliveries on the high seas and along
Spanish coasts. Police now have evidence that Latin American
drug cartels are also collaborating with Moroccan drug
smugglers to transport cocaine into Spain using traditional
hashish routes through the Strait of Gibraltar. In Galicia,
traditional tobacco smuggling routes, which were used during
the Franco era, and heavy port activity continue to attract
drug traffickers to the Galician coast, where illicit drugs
can easily be transported to other parts of Spain or across
its borders to other parts of Europe.
5. (SBU) Madrid DEA notes that Spanish Customs Service and
Guardia Civil agents have good enforcement control to patrol
maritime drug trafficking. However, these patrols and last
year's poor maritime winter weather conditions caused some
drug traffickers to alter their traditional delivery routes
by sea. Traffickers increasingly store drug shipments in
West African countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Sierra
Leone, Togo, and the Ivory Coast, and fly them from third
countries to Spanish airfields, where there are fewer police
patrols. DEA also notes how drug traffickers, typically
nationals of Latin American countries, are using more
sophisticated methods to deliver drugs, especially cocaine,
through luggage and container shipments brought to Spain's
international airport in Madrid and Barcelona by traffickers
posing as visitors. In one example this year, police agents
at Madrid's Barajas airport discovered cocaine concealed in a
container shipment of rubber fenders, which are used at
marine ports to protect ships from being damaged when they
are docked. The thickness of the rubber fenders prevented
drug-sniffing dogs from detecting the cocaine inside. Police
only discovered the cocaine shipment through previous
surveillance of the trafficker.
Recent Cocaine Seizures
6. (U) Several notable cocaine seizures have been reported
specifically in Barcelona and Galicia since the publication
of the 2004 INCSR. On January 27, Spanish police seized
1,700 kilograms of cocaine shipment from Venezuela in
Barcelona and arrested four Spanish nationals in the
incident. On March 22, police seized 2,000 kg of cocaine in
an industrial park warehouse in Barcelona; eight Mexican
nationals were arrested in the incident. On March 30,
policed arrested one Colombian national and three Spanish
permanent residents on possession of 170 kg of cocaine in an
apartment. There have also been two major cocaine seizures
along the coast of Galicia. On May 31, Spanish police seized
a boat carrying an estimated 5,000 kg of Colombian cocaine
valued at USD 496 million (EUR 400 million) that was en route
to Britain through Spain. Spanish Minister of Interior
Antonio Alonso stated that this seizure was the result of a
three-month, joint operation with British drug enforcement
agents to disrupt a Scotland-based drug-trafficking ring
between Morocco and Britain. On June 12, the Spanish Civil
Guard and Customs Service reported a seizure of 3 metric tons
of cocaine aboard a sailing vessel near Galicia. Police
arrested 13 Spanish nationals in the case.
7. (U) Hashish, and increasingly cocaine, enter Western
Europe primarily through Spanish territory from Morocco. The
Spanish press has cited reports from the UN Drug Office
stating that more than 3,000 mt of hashish is cultivated
annually on more than 350,000 acres of land in Morocco,
primarily in its northern Rif mountain territory. The press
has noted that Morocco is one of the largest producers of
hashish in the world. In August 2004, Spanish National
Police discovered links between Colombian drug cartels and
Moroccan traffickers to introduce cocaine into Spain though
the well known "hashish route" between Morocco and the Strait
of Gibraltar. On June 18, Spanish police also seized 916 kg
of "double zero" hashish from Afghanistan and 1,008 kilograms
in cocaine stashed in containers in Valencia. Police agents
arrested twelve individuals who were nationals from Spain,
Uruguay, and Argentina.
Drug Related Asset Seizures & Money Laundering Operations
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8. (U) According to the 2004 Spanish drugs report, police
seized USD 27 million (EUR 20 millions) in cash and 52
million dollars in drug-related assets last year. Most
officials acknowledge that money laundering is a
multi-million dollar underground economy that closely is
linked with drug trafficking in Spain. The amount reported
in the 2004 PND report appears low considering the assets
seizures that Spanish National Police have uncovered thus far
this year. In fact, Spain concluded its largest anti-money
laundering operation "Ballena Blanca" in March 2005 in the
provinces of Malaga, Cadiz, and Alicante (Valencia). More
than 300 Spanish National Police had been involved in this
operation over the last two years. The Ministry of Interior
announced that police agents seized numerous bank accounts
containing tens of millions of euros, 200 properties, two
aircraft, 42 luxury vehicles, and approximately USD 553,000
(EUR 410,000) in cash. According to Spanish officials, the
money-laundering ring involved nationals of Spain, Morocco,
France, Finland, Russia, and Ukraine. Officials reported
that this criminal network has laundered more than USD 325
million (EUR 250 million) in proceeds from drug trafficking,
weapons sales, prostitution, tax evasion and other financial
crimes since 2003. Madrid DEA notes that, in many money
laundering cases like Ballena Blanca, the Spanish government
does not calculate what portion of seized money and assets
relate specifically to drug trade, making it difficult to
provide accurate statistics on money laundering in official
drug reports.
Arrest of Drug Traffickers and Users
9. (U) In 2004, Spanish police arrested 9,071 Spanish
nationals and 4,838 foreigners for drug trafficking. The
total number of arrested increased nearly 10% from 2003.
Among the 4,838 foreigners arrested for drug trafficking, 40%
were Moroccans, 13% were Colombians, 21% were other European
nationals, and 1% were nationals of Asian countries. Spanish
nationals have accounted for 70% all of individuals arrested
for drug trafficking over the last four years. However, the
statistics show that, over the last ten years, arrests of
Spanish drug traffickers has decreased 25% while arrests of
non-Spanish nationals has remained constant. Regarding drug
possession, Spanish national police arrested 150,193
individuals for illegal possession or consumption of drug, up
10.8% from last year's figure. The statistics show that more
than half of those arrested for illegal possession and
consumption of drugs were Spanish males between the ages of
between the ages of 19 and 25.
10. (SBU) Officials at the National Drug Plan state that the
latest arrest statistics are one indication that Spanish law
enforcement is making a strong effort to battle drug
trafficking and illegal possession of drugs. They also
emphasize that Spain maintains strong international law
enforcement cooperation with drug enforcement officials in
Morocco and Latin America. PND officials often cite joint
police training programs with Moroccan police and joint
Spain-Morocco police patrols along the Gibraltar straight as
evidence of their cooperative effort on drug trafficking.
However, Spanish enforcement agents carry out most all
investigation and seizure activity without Moroccan
involvement. In fact, the PND's 2005 report includes no
examples of Spanish-Moroccan collaboration in the 22 "most
relevant cases" it cites in the section on international
11. (SBU) The 2004 arrest statistics suggest that drugs
continue to be a lucrative trade in Spain, and many, if not
the majority of traffickers, as well as consumers, are
Spanish nationals. A higher percentage of Spanish
involvement in the drug trade may be the result of the fact
that Spanish traffickers profiting from the difference in low
price of drugs from source countries in the Americas and high
sale price in Europe, where the euro is strong and domestic
demand is high. Madrid DEA notes that a kilo of cocaine
bought at in Latin America may sell for two to three times
its purchase price in Spain or the United Kingdom,
respectively. Hashish is also sold in Spain at as much as
three to four times its purchase price in Morocco. Spanish
nationals involved in trafficking are more likely to set up
small operations in which they buy drugs from foreign
traffickers and make profit from selling it to domestic users
rather than from smuggling it across Spanish borders on
behalf of foreign traffickers.
Drug Abuse and Drug-related Deaths in Spain
12. (U) The Ministry of Health noted that Spain has the
highest rate of cocaine and cannabis use among school
children aged 14-18 in the European Union. Other government
studies revealed that school children began to experiment
with marijuana before the age of 14. More than 20,000
individuals died prematurely from excessive drug and alcohol
consumption in 2004, according to official studies. Health
Minister Salgado also noted a 420% increase in the number of
reported cases of psychosis caused by drugs between 1993 and
2002. In Madrid, a July 2005 study by the city's Counter
Narcotics Agency attributed 158 deaths in 2004 to overdoses
or adverse reactions to cocaine or heroin. There were 3,553
individuals who received emergency treatment hospitals in
Madrid due to excessive drug or alcohol consumption.
Eighty-six death cases involving minors who had overdosed on
drugs or alcohol: 26 cases involved hashish or marijuana and
12 involved cocaine. Most deaths were the result of
individuals who experienced an adverse reaction to taking
illicit drugs but were unable to receive emergency treatment
in time. Many cases also involved individuals who took a
combination of several drugs and alcohol, according to the
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Spain Tackles Drug Abuse Through the National Drug Plan
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13. (U) Officials at the Ministry of Health have stated that
Spain's current National Drug Plan has been ineffective at
reducing drug abuse among Spanish youth. In a March 17
testimony before the Joint Commission for the Study of the
Drug Problem in the Spanish Congress, Minister of Health
Elena Salgado acknowledged that government statistics on
consumption of drugs, especially among Spanish youth,
demonstrated that PND had only partially met its objectives
in the areas of preventing drug use. She presented a new
Plan of Action for final trimester of 2000-2008 National Drug
Plan (PND) (covering 2005 to 2008) to make more aggressively
efforts targeting drug prevention, awareness, and
rehabilitation programs on Spanish youth.
14. (U) Salgado stated that the Government's anti-drug abuse
efforts had ineffective, in part, because it lacked funds for
public information campaigns on demand reduction. She also
noted that Spanish law enforcement officials were not
cooperating as effectively as possible on supply reduction
measures and enforcement activities. The Health Minister
introduced announced a new Plan of Action to strengthen the
Government's demand and supply reduction efforts. The plan
adds 12 new action priorities to the National Drug Plan for
2005-2008 in the areas of coordination, prevention and
awareness, research on drug abuse, and rehabilitation
programs. It recommends strengthening the participation of
state security agencies and law enforcement in preventing
drug flow, and calls for greater Spanish government
participation with the European Union on drug policy and with
Latin America and Morocco on supply reduction. However, the
Ministry's plan did not elaborate on specific measures,
funding, or joint international cooperation to combat
international drug trafficking into Spain. Salgado also did
not comment on the status of Socialist Party's 2004 campaign
proposal to hire provide 34,000 special police agents in
Spain's autonomous communities to assist in breaking up
organized drug mafias.
15. (SBU) Recent statistics on drug seizures and trafficking
arrests from the Spanish National Drug Plan show that Spain
has made modest gains over the past year in fight against
drugs trafficking and abuse. The Spanish Health Ministry has
adopted a tougher stance toward drug consumption and
contemplated a number of new measures to strengthen its harm
reduction efforts. The Zapatero government has made the
fight against drugs one of its top priorities, according to
Minster of Interior Antonio Alonso, who stated in Parliament
in September 2004 that the Government would combat drugs
trafficking with the same intensity and give it the same
priority as the fight against terrorism and organized crime.
16. (SBU) Despite improving its record on drug seizures and
arrests and strong international counter narcotics
cooperation, Spain does not yet cooperate fully with Morocco
in curbing the flow of hashish and cocaine through Spain's
southern borders. Spain continues to be a primary transfer
point for cocaine, heroin, hashish, and other illicit drugs
to other parts of Europe. It is also becoming a lucrative
domestic market for drugs consumption, especially among
Spanish youth.
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