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Eight Cape Verdean women in prison for drug trafficking in Fortaleza (Brazil) 22 Setembro 2009

The successive attempts to use the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza as a strategic exit point for drugs being trafficked to Europe has solidified the capital of the state of Ceará’s position as a main stopover on international drug trafficking routes. In the first half of 2009 alone, Brazil’s Federal Police seized 145 kilograms of cocaine at Fortaleza’s Pinto Martins International Airport. The numbers perked the attention of local newspaper O Povo, which this week began a series of special reports on the cocaine trade. The information gathered by the newspaper reveals that of the 38 women in prison in the city for attempting to board flights at the airport in possession of controlled substances, eight are Cape Verdean.

Pinto Martins was second on the list of Brazilian airports reporting the largest volume of drug seizures, coming in second only to São Paulo, where 578 kilograms of cocaine were apprehended by police in the first six months of 2009. “Traffickers are beginning to look for ways out. And Fortaleza has turned into the main one,” according to the head of intelligence services of Brazil’s anti-drug police force, Cairo Costa Duarte.

Some of the main drug smugglers in the city are women. Reporters from O Povo visited Auri Moura Costa Women’s Penitentiary and conversed with some of the prisoners there. Of the 38 women jailed for drug-trafficking offenses, eight are from Cape Verde, five from Spain and four are from Guinea Bissau.

Many of the so-called “mules” (those who transport the drugs from one country to another) come from a European or African country to purchase cocaine in São Paulo. They then embark on a domestic flight to Fortaleza, from where they attempt to return to their country of origin. Brazil’s Federal Police also indicates another path. “It all begins with the cocaine that comes from Colombia and Peru, first by river, and then by land to Fortaleza,” explains Cairo Duarte.

The police official explains that the airports showing the most critical situations will receive body scan equipment by the end of this year to help in control procedures. “The equipment is a people scanner, which will allow us to see if individuals have cocaine strapped to their bodies. Then the number of seizures will increase,” he says.

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