Last fall, I was part of a group that visited the Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force that monitors suspected drug trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean. We were shown a PowerPoint presentation that included maps showing the tracks of suspected drug-trafficking flights and boats. Officials denied our request for a copy of these maps.
These must not have been too secret, though, since they showed up yesterday in a presentation that Drug Czar John Walters gave to reporters at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center. Walters was arguing that Venezuela is now a key vector for cocaine trafficking between Colombia and Europe.
These and earlier slides indicate that U.S. radar images do not cover the eastern third of Venezuela, including the highly volatile Orinoco delta region. (Little cocaine moved that far east actually ends up in the United States.)
The map of suspect flights is nonetheless interesting, showing heavy traffic between Venezuela and both the Dominican Republic and Guatemala’s PetÃ©n region. Note the concentration of takeoffs from Venezuelan airstrips just across the border from Colombia’s department of Vichada. Venezuela clearly has a problem with control of its airspace.
Another story entirely is told by the monitoring of “go-fast” boats and other maritime drug trafficking – which accounts for a much higher portion of total drug trafficking. Here, the vast majority of suspect traffic originates from Colombia’s coasts.
Similar maps covering 2005 are in a long-ago post.