Taliban, insurgents benefiting from rise in drug production: UN (Lead)

June 27th, 2008 - 7:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) Taliban and insurgents in conflict zones are using drug money to fund terrorism and corruption, says a UN report that warns against the alarming rise in drug cultivation in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Colombia. Drug cultivation in Afghanistan has risen by 17 percent, in Myanmar by 29 percent and in Colombia by 16 percent. These drug producing regions were beyond the rule of governments, undermining narcotics control worldwide, says the World Drug Report 2008 released Thursday.

“Some of the world’s largest drug producing regions (in Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar) are out of the control of the central government and insurgents, Taliban benefiting from it,” said UN’s anti-narcotics chief Antonio Maria Costa.

“So the drug money is used as a lubricant for corruption, and a source of terrorist financing. Corrupt officials and terrorists make drug production and trafficking easier,” Costa noted in the report.

The findings of the new report are contrary to past UN reports that had stressed that the global drug problem had stabilised.

“This year’s report shows that containment is under threat. The report provides evidence of a surge in supply of illicit drugs in 2007. Afghanistan had a record opium harvest in 2007, as a consequence the world’s illegal opium production almost doubled since 2005,” Costa said.

According to the report, most cultivation took place in five southern provinces of Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents profit from drugs. The same pattern was also observed in Colombia, where cultivation of coca, the plant from which cocaine is derived, increased by a quarter in 2007 mainly in the areas held by leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.

“In Colombia, just like in Afghanistan, the regions where most coca is under control of insurgents,” he said.

According to the UN, the Taliban earned between $100 million to $200 million last year through a 10 percent tax on poppy growers and drug traffickers in areas under its control.

The report said Afghanistan accounted for over 92 percent of global opium production while its cultivation increased in Myanmar by 29 percent in 2007.

The cultivation of coca increased in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru in 2007. The total coca cultivation increased by 16 percent in Colombia in 2007.

“Crops, however, were either not well tended or planted in poor yielding areas, as potential cocaine production only grew by one percent over all.”

Estimates of cannabis herb production witnessed a slight decline for the second straight year in 2006. “The global cannabis herb production is now estimated to be 41,400 tonnes, down from 42,000 tonnes in 2005 and 45,000 tonnes in 2004. The global cannabis resin production also fell down around 10 percent,” the report noted.

The Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) or designer drugs production slightly shot up in 2007. The popular versions of ATS include LSD, methamphetamine, ecstasy, amphetamine and ketamine.

There has been a decline in ecstasy production (from 113 tonnes in 2005 to 103 tonnes in 2006)) and a decrease in metamphetamine production (from 278 tonnes to 267 tonnes in 2006), which is again compensated by an increase in global amphetamine production (from 88 tonnes to 126 tonnes), the report said.

The UNODC drug report confirms that there has been a systemic shift in major drug routes, particularly for cocaine. Because of steady demand for cocaine in Europe and improved interdiction along traditional routes, drug traffickers have targeted West Africa, according to the report.

“States in Caribbean, Central America and West Africa, as well as the border regions of Mexico, are caught in the cross-fire between the world’s biggest coca producers (the Andean countries) and biggest consumers (North America and Europe),” Costa warned.

“Drugs money corrupts governments, and even turns into terrorist financing. Promotion of the rule of law is the best way to fight the drug trade,” he added.

The report showed that less than one in every twenty people (age 15-64) has tried drugs at least once in past 12 months. Problem drug uses, who are severe drug dependent, are less than one tenth of this already low percentage: 26 million people, about 0.6 percent of the planet’s adult population.

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