Latin American security forces crack down on smuggling of alcohol and cigarettes
By Dialogo September 30, 2014
Cocaine, heroin, and other illicit substances are high-priority targets in the fight against drug trafficking in Latin America, but regional security forces are also combatting attempts to smuggle alcohol and cigarettes.
Both are legal, but criminal organizations are trying to secretly transport them into the country to avoid paying taxes. Drug trafficking groups like Los Rastrojos and the Clan Úsuga have taken up the practice as well, using buses, trucks, private cars and even boats.
It’s become big business in Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Honduras, El Salvador and Panamá. In these countries, one out of every four bottles of liquor is illegally produced or sold. Their sales, along with contraband cigarettes, total more than $2.3 billion (USD), with tax losses of about $736 million (USD). Those losses, which would normally fund the government, go to fund criminal enterprises instead
“This is an illegal business that’s part of a larger economic criminal system,” POLFA director Brig. Gen. Gustavo Moreno said.
Large seizures in Colombia
That system extends beyond the borders of Latin America. Criminal groups are smuggling alcohol and cigarettes from countries as far away as Switzerland, Scotland, and the Czech Republic. Often their contraband ends up in Colombia – or along the Pacific Coast, arriving at the Port of Buenaventura in the department of Nariño, near the border with Ecuador.
Colombian security forces are responding with increased enforcement efforts. As of late September, they’ve seized 202,408 liters of liquor nationwide, worth more $2 million (USD). Just last month, Fiscal and Customs Police (POLFA) seized 2,440 liters of liquor, 18,160 packs of cigarettes and 239 bottles of foreign beer. Their agents, stationed at a series of checkpoints in the department of Guajira, found the alcohol and cigarettes hidden inside vehicles.
POLFA has also in recent months seized alcohol and cigarettes smuggled into Colombia by boat from Panamá, Curacao and Aruba.
A big business
International cooperation is a key component in the fight against alcohol and tobacco smuggling – because both are international problems. For example, the smuggling of liquor increased more than 167 percent in Ecuador in 2012. In Colombia and Panamá, liquor smuggling increased by 26 percent and 29 percent, respectively.
POLFA has labored to increase information sharing among Latin American countries, for instance with security forces in Ecuador and Perú. It has compiled about 75 databases that include information about shipping firms and trading companies which have been sanctioned for helping transport contraband alcohol and cigarettes. Eventually, their goal is to create a list that allows labor unions to identify such firms. They’ve also helped organize three joint workshops with agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“The issue of smuggling is still not widely recognized within the police forces of Latin America,” Moreno said. “But it’s very important to position the problem of smuggling as a phenomenon with concrete repercussions, as a reality that is now here, that is an underlying issue and that will not go away.”
It is a common good for society not to take any drugs. Healthy people and their healthy habitat what they need to do is close the companies that prepare the illegal products such as alcohol and cigarettes Drugs, cigarettes and alcohol are elements that are regulated within the crimes against health, the three are legal, only the first which is through medical prescription. What's strange about this article is that it talks about defrauding the economy of the countries, then if taxes were paid it would be OK, it would be legal it DOESN'T MATTER THAT IT HURTS PEOPLE'S HEALTH, we have to take into account that in the majority of Latin countries and El Salvador, most of the budget goes to the armed forces, which does NO GOOD to the country, Salvadoran territory is being invaded by the Hondurans and it's the armed forces, who should protect it, but no, now it's the lawyers, if this is so they should be eliminated, with the army of the United States is in the region, what are these armies for ?
Or is it a business proposition, to buy old weapons, let's keep them armed and all is well, that money is poorly invested. It should be given to health, education, agriculture, invest to create jobs, since that component reduces drug, alcohol and cigarette use.