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Cablegate: Latvia 2010 Incsr Part 1 Draft

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRA #0535/01 3030849
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300849Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6117

UNCLAS RIGA 000535

SIPDIS
DEPT FOR INL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV SNAR LG

SUBJECT: LATVIA 2010 INCSR PART 1 DRAFT

1. (U) Below is Embassy Riga's draft of the 2010 International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Part 1.

Begin INCSR Report:
_____________________________________________ _________

I. Summary

As in previous years, the most widely used drug in Latvia was
cannabis, followed by synthetic drugs such as ecstasy and
amphetamines. Although relatively few drugs are produced in Latvia,
criminals involved in the illegal drug trade use Latvia as a transit
country. Unfortunately, budget constraints caused by the severe
national economic crisis have decreased Latvia's ability to provide
drug rehabilitation and prevention services. Latvia is party to
the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Cocaine use, although still relatively low, had apparently increased
over the last few years. However, the volume of cocaine seized in
2009 is on pace to decrease for the second year in a row, perhaps
indicating a reversal of this trend. Heroin use is also relatively
low when compared to other substances, but by mid-2009 the volume of
heroin seizures were already 14% higher than seizures in all of
2008. However, the overall volume of heroin seized in that time
period remains below two kilograms and police report that heroin is
usually sold at "retail" only to people known to the seller and is
generally not available in public places, though selling tactics and
methods constantly change. Amphetamines are distributed in venues
that attract youth, such as nightclubs, discotheques, gambling
centers and "rave" parties, but Latvian police have made a concerted
effort to combat drug sales in those locations. Latvia itself is
not a significant producer of synthetic drugs or their precursor
chemicals, but officials believe that a significant quantity of
diverted synthetics and their pre-precursors originate in
neighboring countries and transit Latvia en route to other
countries. Control of some cocaine smuggling through the Baltic
region is directed by Latvian organized crime groups in coordination
with other organized crime groups. Russia is the most likely
ultimate market for this cocaine. Due to reductions in the health
services budget, the government has closed some drug treatment
programs and reduced the services offered in others. The government
has also decreased funding for drug prevention programs

III. Country Action against Drugs in 2008

Policy Initiatives

Latvia completed an evaluation of its State Program for the
Restriction and Control of Addiction and the Spread of Narcotic and
Psychotropic Substances for the years 2005 to 2008. The report
concluded that the program was successful and authorities have
managed to maintain stable control over drug use and trade, given
the fact that the Latvian authorities could not influence external
factors, such as the effects of joining the Schengen zone.
Government ministries prepared an Action Plan for the Restriction
and Control of Addiction and the Spread of Narcotic and Psychotropic
Substances for 2009, which had the same priorities as the State
Program and was intended to guide Latvia's efforts until a new State
Program could be adopted, but this short term plan was not adopted
by the government. The government is currently developing a new
State Program for 2010 to 2013, which the government plans to adopt
next year.

In 2006 a program called "HIV/AIDS prevention and care among
injecting drug users and in prison settings in Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania" was initiated with UN funding. The goal of the project is
to establish a favorable environment in all project countries to
better implement HIV/AIDS prevention and care activities among
injection drug users and in prisons. The program is scheduled to
last from 2006 to 2010.

Peperzine, a new synthetic drug from Western Europe was added to the
Latvian list of controlled substances in 2009.

Law Enforcement Efforts

Due to the economic crisis, the Latvian government cut the State
Police budget, and significantly reduced the salaries of police
officers. However, the number of personal at the Latvian Central
Criminal Police's Narcotics Combating Office has not changed.

Latvian law enforcement targets both street level drug dealers,
through traffic stops and raids in nightclubs, and large
international drug trafficking organizations through cooperation
with the United States DEA and other nations. For example, in 2009
the Central Criminal Police concluded a 20-month investigation in
which they worked in close concert with other European countries and
Ecuador to target a drug smuggling conspiracy led by a major Latvian
organized crime figure. In addition, in November of 2008 the State
Police discovered the largest cannabis growing farm ever in Latvia,
containing 1,905 cannabis plants.

Based on data from the first half of 2009, the volume of drugs
seized by the Latvian police in 2009 generally is on pace to be
significantly lower than in 2008. However, in the first half of
2009, Latvian police had already confiscated 14% more heroin than
they did in all of 2008. Conversely, marihuana confiscations were
less than six percent of the total confiscations in 2008, and
hashish seizures were under 18% of 2008 levels. Cocaine,
amphetamines, methamphetamines, and ecstasy, seizures in the first
half of 2009 were, respectively, 5%, 42%, 15%, and 3% of the 2008
totals at the end of June 2009. However, the number of drug-related
crimes in the first half of 2009 was on pace to meet or exceed 2008
levels.

Corruption

Latvia's Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) was
established in 2002 to help combat and prevent public corruption.
According to a KNAB official, the bureau has not uncovered any
evidence of narcotics-related-corruption connected to high-ranking
officials.

However, corruption generally remains a problem in Latvia and there
have been narcotics related corruption cases involving relatively
low-ranking government officials. For example, in 2009 KNAB asked
prosecutors to bring criminal charges against a fellow prosecutor
for accepting bribes from a person involved in narcotics
distribution. This year KNAB also initiated criminal proceedings
against a customs official at the Riga port for attempting to accept
a bribe in return for not inspecting a container

As a matter of government policy, Latvia does not encourage or
facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or
psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering
of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.

Agreements and Treaties
Latvia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN
Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1961 UN Single
Convention as amended by its 1972 Protocol. A 1923 extradition and a
1934 supplementary extradition treaty currently are in force between
the U.S. and Latvia. The United States and Latvia are parties to a
bilateral treaty on mutual legal assistance agreement which entered
into force on September 17, 1999. The Republic of Latvia and the
United States have ratified an Extradition Treaty signed in Riga on
December 7, 2005. Both governments have also ratified and exchanged
instruments regarding the Protocol to the MLAT. Latvia is a party
to the UN Convention against Corruption, and to the UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols against
trafficking in persons, migrant smuggling and illegal manufacturing
and trafficking in firearms.

Cultivation/Production
Latvia is not a major drug producing country, but relatively small
amounts of drugs are produced in Latvia. Based on an increase in
the number of cannabis growing operations discovered in Latvia,
Latvian officials believe that the amount of cannabis grown in
Latvia may have increased in the last few years.

Drug Flow/Transit

The drug transit situation in Latvia did not significantly change in
the past year. Latvia is not a transit route for drugs destined for
the United States. Most drugs transiting Latvia are destined for
the Nordic countries, Russia or Western Europe. Criminals transport
precursor chemicals for synthetic drug manufacturing, synthetic
drugs, cocaine, ecstasy, and other drugs through Latvia. Heroin
transiting Latvia is predominantly Afghan in origin and comes via
the "Northern Route" through former Soviet Central Asia.

Criminals commonly drive synthetic drugs produced in Lithuania to
Riga and then transport the drugs by ferry to Sweden. Benzyl Methyl
Ketone (BMK), a synthetic drug chemical precursor, is produced in
Russia and also transported through Latvia en route to other
European destinations.

Local and foreign organized crime groups smuggle cocaine through the
Baltic region, and some of it goes through Latvia en route to
Russia. Latvian organized crime groups send cocaine hidden in
commercial vessels from Guayaquil, Ecuador to St. Petersburg, and
some groups drive vehicles with concealed cocaine overland from the
Benelux countries to Latvia and Lithuania.

Latvia became a Schengen country on December 21, 2007, thus opening
its borders to other Schengen Treaty states of the European Union.
The Latvian State Police reported that the greatest rise in
narcotics trafficking in Latvia occurred when it became an EU
country in 2004. Police do not believe the change after Schengen
accession has been significant.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction

The 2005-2008 national strategy addressed demand reduction,
education, and drug treatment programs. Under that strategy the
following objectives were achieved: establishment of a co-ordination
mechanism for institutions involved in combating drug addiction
(involving eight ministries); holding educational events for
teachers and parents, as well as updated educational materials and
informative booklets; inclusion of information on drug addiction in
school curriculums; establishment of a pilot program for teaching
prevention of drug addiction, alcohol abuse and smoking; pilot
programs on drug addiction for local governments; education programs
for members of the armed forces; and mechanisms for information
exchange amongst relevant institutions.

Budget cuts threaten to reduce some of these programs. For example,
in 2009 the national government stopped funding the Riga Addiction
Prevention Center, which organizes drug education programs in Riga.
The Riga City Council now funds the center, although at a reduced
level.

Due to the economic crisis and the accompanying budget cuts, the
Latvian government reduced the services offered by publicly funded
drug treatment and rehabilitation programs. The government closed
the drug treatment program in Rindzele, previously one of the
largest in the country. The Riga Centre of Psychiatry and
Addictions, the name of the State Narcotics Center since 2007,
continues to offer a drug rehabilitation program, but the government
reduced funding from a level that supported the care of 15 patients
at a time to a level that only supports the care of two patients.
Additional patients must pay 150 LVL ($318) per month, a significant
amount in Latvia. Government funded regional narcotics addiction
treatment centers in Jelgava, Daugavpils, Liepaja, and Straupe
continue to operate. Private rehabilitation centers in Riga and
publicly funded youth rehabilitation centers in Jaunpiebalga,
Gailezers and Straupe also continue to operate.

2008 data on drug treatment clients show a modest increase in the
number of patients treated at publicly funded in-or out-patient
treatment programs. The number of those treated for the first time
at out-patient treatment centers in 2008 increased by 5% compared to
2007 (659 in 2008 and 627 in 2007). Data show that approximately
every fifth problem drug or injection drug user sought treatment in
2008. Preliminary analysis indicates that the number of those
treated at in-patient programs has increased by the same percentage
as out-patient programs. The number of patients treated in 2009 will
probably decrease, given the reduced services offered by the
publicly funded health care system.

Harm reduction programs are operating in Latvia. December 2006 a
four-year UNODC project "HIV/AIDS prevention and care among
injection drug and in-prison settings in Latvia, Estonia and
Lithuania" began. The programs focus includes substitution treatment
and increased coverage of harm reduction activities. A local NGO
manages syringe exchange centers, including a mobile exchange
center, and provides psychological and social counseling to addicts.


Part IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives

Bilateral Cooperation

The United States offers assistance on investigating and prosecuting
drug offenses and organized crime. The Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) and Latvia Central Criminal Police continue to
conduct joint investigations in an effort to disrupt and dismantle
Latvian-based organized crime groups that operate both regionally
and internationally. In 2009 The DEA provided various training
courses to Latvian law enforcement officials and USCG Mobile
Training Team visited Latvia in 2009 to provide a course on advanced
boarding.

Road Ahead

The United States will continue to pursue and deepen law enforcement
cooperation with Latvia, especially in the area of money laundering
and border control. The United States will also encourage Latvia to
work with regional partners to advance the mutual fight against
narcotics trafficking.


End INCSR Report

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