By Dialogo April 24, 2013 Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal are countries used by traffickers to get cocaine from Latin America to Spain, she added. Colombian groups which dominated the trade in the 1980s have given way bit by bit to Mexican cartels, said Gratius. Spain seized 20.7 tons of cocaine last year, 24.9 percent more than in the previous year, and 325.5 tons of hashish, down 8.5 percent from 2011, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez-Diaz said on April 18. Spain, the main gateway into Europe for cocaine and hashish, has stepped up the fight against drug trafficking by rings which are shifting their tactics to keep their access to the lucrative European market. “Very often drugs no longer arrive directly from Latin America, instead they pass through Africa using the traditional routes for hashish trafficking,” she said. Drug traffickers’ interest in Europe has increased because demand from the continent for cocaine is growing, she added. “Traffickers have money on their side, a lack of scruples and they can develop their activities without limit.” A multiplication of police operations against drug trafficking in Galicia has diverted cocaine smugglers to the south of Europe, said Susanne Gratius, an analyst with FRIDE, a think tank specializing in European affairs, who wrote a report about the fight against drug trafficking for the European Parliament. That represents 41.21 percent of the total amount of cocaine which was seized in Europe last year and 73.69 percent of the hashish, according to the minister. In response, European nations have reinforced regional cooperation as well as their cooperation with police forces in Latin America to stop the flow of cocaine. A record 49.65 tons of cocaine was seized in Spain in 2006. “We are winning battles but it will be difficult to win the war,” said José Antonio Rodríguez, head of the anti-cocaine squad of the Spanish National Police Force’s anti-drug unit. Cocaine arrives in Spain from Latin America in Galicia, a northwestern region whose rugged coastline is dotted with coves and inlets, and in the southern port of Cadiz, and is then shipped overland by truck to France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. “We have found that groups in the region such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb cooperate with them and get paid to transport drugs to North Africa,” he said. Spain’s proximity to Morocco and its easy access to the Atlantic Ocean make it “a natural entry point for drug shipments for all of Europe,” said Rodríguez. Latin American drug rings can rely on the help of strong local networks in Africa to help move their narcotics to Europe, said Rodríguez. “Since then we have observed a clear downwards trend, which may be explained by changes in international trafficking routes,” the Spanish Police wrote in a report last year. Over the past decade the number of cocaine consumers in Europe has doubled while demand for the drug has plunged by 33 percent in the United States, she said. The make-up of drug rings sending cocaine to Spain has changed as well. Hiding cocaine in banana shipments remains one of the favorite tactics used by traffickers.
USC will grant six honorary degrees at the 2017 commencement ceremony on May 12 for civic, academic, scientific and artistic contributions, according to USC News.The recipients are actor and comedian Will Ferrell, social work leader Suzanne Dworak-Peck, Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center founding director David Ho, biomedical innovator Gary Michelson, actress Helen Mirren and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Ferrell will also be the commencement ceremony speaker.Along with the honorary degrees, approximately 15,000 degrees will be commended this year, including 1,500 doctorate degrees.Ferrell will be honored for his philanthropic contributions to campus initiatives such as USC’s annual Swim With Mike fundraiser, which supports athletes with physical disabilities, and Cancer for College, which confers college scholarships to cancer survivors.Dworak-Peck was named a Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers. After conferring $60 million to name and endowing the USC Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, she has since served as the chair of the School of Social Work’s Board of Councilors.Ho has received the Presidential Citizens Medal and 13 honorary doctorates, and in 1996 was recognized as TIME magazine’s “Man of the Year” for pioneering AIDS research.Michelson is known for spinal surgery techniques improving the safety, effectiveness and expense of traditional spinal surgery approaches. Michelson and his wife, Alya, have teamed with USC to start the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, which aims to conduct research accelerating the development of scientific and medical innovation.Mirren is the only actress to have ever played both Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II on camera and has received numerous Emmy Awards, BAFTA Awards and Golden Globes for her portrayal of dramatic, multidimensional characters.Ridley-Thomas earned his Ph.D. from USC in 1989, and has since worked to better civic engagement in local communities, improve access to high-quality health care and provide critical services to the homeless. Ridley-Thomas currently serves as chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and is on the board of L.A. Care and is on the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.