Despite the controversy over the term, the phrase “narco-terrorism” is increasingly used to refer to known (and unknown) terrorist organisations that use the illicit drug trade to fund their operations, entice followers and buy expertise, weapons and explosives.
What initially started off as attacks against counter-narcotics agencies in South America – and particularly in Peru – has become a methodology used by illegal drug traders and traffickers to build up forces and attempt to influence the policies of governments and societies by means of violence, intimidation and terrorism.
Whereas the destruction of their crops is a good start, it cannot - and should not - end there. There are many other targets that can be attacked over a wide front to destroy this enemy and no stone should be left unturned in eradicating this scourge. Indeed, those who prefer this path should be attacked with aggression and cunning and given no moment of respite.
Yet the West seems to be afraid of infringing on the human rights of the drug traffickers, syndicates and cartels despite its calls for these activities to be stopped. Ironically, when drug traffickers/mules are sentenced to death in the East, European governments protest loudly and call for clemency, claiming the convicted suffer from some incurable mental disease. However, this “mental disease” seems to surface only once the perpetrators are caught. Will we witness a similar pattern when these governments are dealing with narco-terrorists? Do these traffickers and dealers have any mercy on those they have dragged into the murky world of drug addiction? When their ill-gotten gains are used to purchase weapons, explosives and know-how, do they for a moment stop to consider being merciful towards those they are about to kill? I doubt it.
That most basic law of economics – the law of supply and demand – needs to be readdressed, reanalysed and the situation re-appreciated. Part of this problem is that the purity, along with the demand, of many of these illegal substances has risen while the prices have dropped. This has widened the market and increased sales. This in turn empowers the criminal syndicates and cartels, damages the legitimate economy, creates additional strain on law enforcement agencies and adds to a climate that breeds terrorism.
According to Interpol, the illicit drug trade is a major source in funding terrorism. Apparently it is a US$ 400 billion business annually, taking about 8 percent of the world’s trade – and growing. This implies that the organisations running this global empire have sufficient funds to source and buy whatever they need to expand their empire. Stopping them will require more than simple crop-burning.
Narco-terrorism needs to be attacked over a wide front, utilising overt, clandestine and covert methods – with no regard to the human rights of these criminals. Failure to do so will simply increase the revenue stream to the terrorists. Additionally, the underlying issues of addiction and prevention should be addressed in order to reduce the market size and demand.
Taking the fight to the narco-terror networks should be Priority #1. This requires an intensified effort to infiltrate/penetrate the cartels and syndicates, direct hard action against the villas, haciendas and other hideouts and laboratories, intercept mail and telephone calls to identify and target accomplices, freeze bank accounts (these funds can be used against them), show no mercy when applying the law against them, sanction governments that provide succour to the narco-terrorists, disrupt them in their own areas, identify and attack High Value Targets and so forth.
The financial gains the narco-traders and narco-terrorists make from their crimes stem from the host of buyers, sellers, traders and traffickers. This grouping should be likewise targeted without mercy. Prison sentences in cushy jails should not even be a consideration. Instead, they should receive hard labour sentences where they are given no respite. Let them build roads with picks and shovels – even in areas where no roads are needed.
The west coast of Africa is increasingly becoming a hub for the illegal drugs trade and trafficking from especially South America. What was once known as the Gold Coast is rapidly becoming known the Coke Coast. If no action is taken, this volatile area may soon become a focal point from which not only increased drug trafficking is launched into Europe, but very possibly narco-terrorism. But, the longer this serious issue is ignored, the more time the narco-terrorists are given to entrench themselves and their followers, build their networks and wreak havoc. But this volatile area in Africa is also starting to produce its own drugs – the implications can be imagined. Likewise, East Africa is also becoming a hub for narco-terrorism.
Despite the noises made about narco-terrorism, it is unlikely that much real effort will go into stopping this very lucrative and dangerous criminal endeavour. Where efforts are made, they fall far short of denting the narco networks. Throwing money at a problem will not make it go away. Only a decent aggressive strategy will do that.