Italian police show an 800 gram bag of cocaine seized as part of a raid conducted in Naples in December 2006.
Italian police show an 800 gram bag of cocaine seized as part of a raid conducted in Naples in December 2006. - 
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SCOTT JAGOW: Europe has a cocaine problem. At a conference this week in Spain, drug officials said they were facing a new wave of coke from South America. Vicky Burnett's a reporter with the International Herald Tribune. She's in Madrid. Vicky, what's going on here?

VICKY BURNETT: In a conversation I had yesterday with Karen Tandy, the head of the DEA, she said that drug traffickers from Latin America are now focusing on the European market for more than one reason. One, the appetite for cocaine in Europe, which has taken off. The other thing is that the euro's strength against the dollar has risen enormously over the last two years. So if you sell a kilo of cocaine on the streets in Europe now you're likely to make about $50,000, versus about $30,000 on the streets in the U.S.

JAGOW: Well how are the South American drug dealers getting the cocaine to Europe?

BURNETT: What seems to be emerging, in addition to the traditional routes, the new sort of shipping hub emerging is Africa. The Latin American traffickers have allied with syndicates existing in Africa. There's already quite a sophisticated infrastructure of drug trafficking on that continent.

JAGOW: So with all this new attention focused on the South America to Europe trade, what does that mean for the American market?

BURNETT: There has been a fall in cocaine consumption in the American market, but at the same time, there's still concern about this emergence of Africa as a hub for drug shipments because Africa is being used as a springboard, as strange as it may sound, to send drugs to the United States. Stuff may be shipped out of Brazil, brought to Africa, and then from there go to the U.S.

JAGOW: Alright Vicky, thanks so much.

BURNETT: Thank you.

JAGOW: Vicky Burnett in Madrid. She's with the International Herald Tribune.