Spain was traditionally the gateway to Europe for cocaine from South and Central America, but those times are over.
For years and due to the increased control in Spanish ports and the loss of influence in the illegal drug market of the Galician cartels, that port has moved north, mainly to Belgian and Dutch ports.
The reports of the specialized agency of the European Union have been warning for years, however the 2022 data mark an unprecedented rebound.
Antwerp is already the major gateway to Europe for cocaine and for the first time last year Belgium seized more than 100 tonnes of cocaine, a figure that no European country had ever reached.
The 110 tons seized last year double the 52.5 that the Dutch security services managed to intercept and multiply by three what was seized in Spain.
Antwerp is the second European port by volume of goods a drug highway to Europewhere there has never been more cocaine on the market and its prices have never been lower.
The increase in cocaine seizures has not stopped growing for a decade, when they were just 10 tons a year. The graph published by the Belgian press is a regular upward arrow, to which practically 10 tons more are added every year. Belgium is the destination for nearly half of the cocaine that reaches Europe.
The European Observatory on Drugs and Drug Addiction, which publishes its data late compared to the national authorities, assured last year that 213 tonnes of cocaine were seized throughout the European Union in 2020, of which 70 in Belgium.
The increase in the amount of drugs seized in 2021 and 2022 brings that figure to over 110 tons. Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain account for over 75% of cocaine seizures in Europe.
The port moves such a number of containers every day that it is impossible to control them all.
Cocaine enters mainly hidden fruit shipments from Latin America. The authorities do not hide the fact that if they seize more drugs it is because even more arrive. Belgium is looking for ways to stop the entry of cocaine.
The situation in Holland is also worrying. Since last year, Dutch divers have been combing the hulls of suspicious ships in an attempt to find hidden hiding places beneath the surface.
Belgium also promises more means. Its authorities announced on Tuesday that they will increase the number of customs officers responsible for drug searches by more than a hundred there will be new technological equipment to scan more and more containers. More than 70 million euros will be spent this year on equipment alone.
Some operations show the confidence that the big drug cartels seem to have in their ability to bypass controls in Antwerp.
In a single operation last October, Belgian customs checkpoints seized more than six tons of cocaine from Suriname. The Belgian government does not hide the seriousness of the situation and speaks of a drug “tsunami” or that the country’s major port is “flooded” with cocaine.
The increase in the arrival of cocaine is generating a increase in violence.
Revenge shootings or attempted thefts of goods between mafias are becoming more frequent and the Minister of Justice and his family had to be placed under permanent police surveillance and leave his home because the secret services believed he might be the victim of an attack.
Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.