Photo: AP Images
Guinea Bissau has a population of just over 1.5 million people. Two thirds of them live in poverty. Its GDP is ranked 191st in the world — making it one of the poorest countries on the planet. It has the sixth highest death rate in the world, and only one drug addiction clinic.And now, it’s being called the world’s first true “Narco-State” by Time Magazine.
Since 2005, it has become a hotspot for the cocaine trade to Europe. Poverty, poor governance, and its relative proximity to Europe make it an ideal spot for drug dealers in Latin America looking to get their product to Europe.
The U.S. estimates that 30 tons of cocaine passes through Guinea-Bissau a year. So how much is that worth?
Well, a 2011 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the transatlantic cocaine trade says a kilogram of cocaine in Guinea-Bissau costs €7,000. 30 U.S. tons is equal to approximately 27,215.542 kilograms. That means the annual value of the cocaine trade is equal to about €190.5 million. If you convert that to U.S. dollars, that’s about $250.3 million.
Guinea-Bissau’s official GDP?
That means the cocaine trade is equal to almost 13 per cent of the final market value of all officially recognised goods and services in the country.
Despite obvious signs of the trade — such as $100,000 cars in Bissau’s streets and smugglers’ abandoned Gulfstream jet at the airport — the drug business thrives on a willful silence. Malam is a 35-year-old Bissau-Guinean drug dealer and international trafficker. He tells me he has full impunity because he is related to a former President. “The police are worthless,” says Malam, who refuses to use his full name. “They’re in everyone’s pocket.” He dips into his own supply on occasion and counts himself lucky. The younger and poorer in Guinea-Bissau use cocaine’s cheaper and more-addictive derivative, crack. As night falls in the capital, young people can be seen gathering in groups under mango trees or in sleepy side streets to smoke rocks of crack cocaine for less than a dollar a hit. “No police approach them,” says Peter Correia, a government health care worker, in his small office piled high with boxes of condoms. “They can’t because of the condition of these people — they are becoming dangerous.”
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