2011, USAF, The Latin American Drug Trade

Drug Production and Trafficking

Colombia currently accounts for the vast bulk of cocaine produced in Latin America. In 2009, the country produced 270 metric tons (MT) of cocaine, making it the principal supplier for both the United States and the worldwide market. Besides Colombia, Peru and Bolivia constitute two additional important sources of cocaine in Latin America. In 2009, these two countries generated enough base material to respectively yield 225 and 195 MT of refined product.

Between 60 and 65 percent of all Latin American cocaine is trafficked to the United States, the bulk of which is smuggled via the eastern Pacific/Central American corridor. The remainder is sent through the Caribbean island chain, with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Haiti acting as the main transshipment hubs. In both cases, Mexico serves as the main point of entry to mainland America, presently accounting for the vast majority of all illicit drug imports to the United States.

Increasing amounts of Latin American cocaine are now also being sent to Europe, reflecting higher street prices than those in the United States and shifting consumer demand patterns toward this particular narcotic (and derivates, such as crack). The majority of the Colombian cocaine that is trafficked to Europe, either directly or via West Africa, is exported from Venezuela. In addition to cocaine, Colombia also represents a relatively important source for North America opiates, historically accounting for around half of the white heroin consumed east of the Mississippi.

Although there has been a marked decline in opium-production levels in the past several years—largely due to successful poppy-eradication efforts—shipments still take place, with the main trafficking route running up the eastern Pacific to Mexico.