Since the April 2012 military coup d’état that ended civilian rule in Guinea-Bissau, this small, Portuguese-speaking country in West Africa has quietly become what some experts have termed Africa’s first “narco-state,” as cocaine trafficking is now a widely accepted route to power and influence in Bissau-Guinean politics. What’s more, the burgeoning South Atlantic drug trade shows signs of becoming further entwined with violent extremist networks across West Africa and the Sahel—the belt of Africa between the Sahara Desert and the tropical savannahs—helping to finance groups and activities that undermine economic and political development.
These dramatic developments in Guinea-Bissau shed light on the spread of the cocaine trade across the Atlantic and illustrate how this trend threatens security efforts across two continents. The United States and the international community should view the creation of viable economic alternatives in Latin America and Guinea-Bissau as part of a sustainable solution to the proliferation of transatlantic cocaine trafficking. This trade has well-known social and health impacts in the United States, Latin America, Africa, and Europe, perpetuates economic underdevelopment in the producing and transit areas, and contributes to the strength of violent extremist groups on two continents.
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