News / Africa

DEA: Mexican Drug Cartels Reach Further Across Africa

Authorities seize an illegal supply of heroin in Kenya (photo from March 2011)Authorities seize an illegal supply of heroin in Kenya (photo from March 2011)
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Authorities seize an illegal supply of heroin in Kenya (photo from March 2011)
Authorities seize an illegal supply of heroin in Kenya (photo from March 2011)
Alex Pena
NAIROBI - Officials at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration say Mexican drug cartels are playing an increasing role in trafficking illicit drugs in Africa. DEA officials say the cartels increasingly use Africa as a conduit for illegal drugs.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials say their investigations indicate a growing number of chemicals used to produce illegal drugs for cartels in Mexico have been coming from African traffickers.

They say Mexican drug cartels now have documented links to criminal groups in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, and Nigeria.

Jeff Breeden, the chief of DEA Headquarters’ Africa section, says he has witnessed the growing trend himself.

“We haven’t identified specific cartel activity in Africa. We’ve identified Mexicans in Africa, and we know they are affiliated with cartels - we just haven’t put it together,” Breeden said.

In the past, Mexican and South American drug operations extended as far across the Atlantic as West Africa, which served as a staging point for drugs smuggled north to Europe.  But a growing number of joint DEA and local police operations in recent years have shown drug trafficking operations reaching farther east across sub-Saharan Africa.

In a DEA report presented to the U.S. Senate in May, officials in Pretoria, South Africa, say police intercepted a shipment of chemicals used to make illegal drugs destined for a group of Mexican nationals operating out of Maputo, Mozambique.

Further investigation led to the arrest of three Mexicans and one Nigerian operating out of a Mozambique residence.

DEA officials believe nine of the largest drug trafficking organizations in South America and Mexico have operations in Africa. Breeden says the concern among drug enforcement agents is that Africa may grow into a central transit point for the cartels.

“There were several large seizures. One in Kenya, and one in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), where a Mexican was identified at the time. The pseudoephedrine was transiting and being repackaged in Africa, and then forwarded to Mexico or Central America for processing into methamphetamine, and ended up on the streets in the U.S,” Breeden said.

The growing number of illegal drug operations in Africa forced the DEA to increase its efforts, opening multiple offices across sub-Saharan Africa. In January the agency opened an office in Nairobi, with plans to open one in Senegal and a few other locations within several years.

Breeden says the DEA is reacting to a threat in Africa that is coming from all over the world.

“We’ve seen in the past several years heroin coming from Afghanistan, transiting both East Africa, South Africa, and West Africa, and a lot of that is destined to the United States," Breeden said.

Breeden says Africa’s porous borders, under-trained law enforcement and corruption problem create prime ground for illegal organizations to operate freely.

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