Latin American Police Seek Help from Dogs to Halt Drug Trafficking

By Dialogo
March 20, 2009

Police officers in Latin America are seeking support from Colombian dogs trained to detect drugs to curb drug traffic to Europe via the growing West African route. In an exhibition forming part of a specialized course, police from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and the Dominican Republic witness the skills of Colombian dogs in detecting explosives, drugs, currency, and other items. At the meeting, Colombia’s more than 20 years of experience in the training of dogs for this purpose was highlighted. The project is funded by the European Commission and implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the police school at Facatativa, a town located about 40 kilometers west of Bogota. Colonel Mario Camacho, head of the Bolivian Training Center for Canine Drug Detectors, told Efe that the purpose of this course is to seek new experiences and to optimize work in other countries. "It was excellent and we thank Colombia for the opportunity to be exposed to this school, these experiences, and the techniques used with dogs, which will be used in our country to continue that work for the benefit of society," said the police chief. He recalled that in Bolivia the use of dogs has aided in the seizure of increasing quantities of drugs. Meanwhile, Peruvian captain Rubén William Lino told Efe that this is "sharing knowledge among neighboring countries,” with the aim of bringing this knowledge to Peru. The main objective of this course is to reduce the amount of cocaine traffic from Latin America and the Caribbean to Europe via West Africa, and is part of a cooperative project between the security forces of several Latin American states. In this way they are pursuing greater cooperation between the institutions of the six participating countries. Colombia has also offered to help the countries of West Africa in the fight against drugs following the recent alert from the United Nations, which said that a third of the cocaine consumed in Europe flows into the continent from that territory. The UN estimates that every year about 50 tons of cocaine, one third of Europe’s total consumption, valued at more than 2.5 billion euros, passes through African territory, where the traffickers take advantage of the lack of local authorities. The African countries most traveled by drug traffickers are Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, and Sierra Leone. This workshop also served to draw together the police forces of Colombia and Ecuador, countries which broke off diplomatic relations a year ago, but have maintained their partnership in the fight against drugs. In fact, the head of the Ecuadorian police’s canine training center, Major William Villaruel, participated in the meeting and said that his country has strengthened its control thanks to the cooperation of its northern neighbor. "We are very close to this school in Colombia, as many of our members in previous years were trained in this school and know the system we operate," the officer said to Efe. The seminar, which concludes tomorrow, also delves into the importance of canine resources in the prevention and seizure of drugs, and sharing methods of detecting the presence of cocaine in ports, airports, and other places used for drug trafficking. The main instructors belong to canine narcotics units from France and the United States, as well as the UNODC.