Mozambique: Brazilian Cocaine Baron Caught in Maputo

Cocaine (file photo).

"Fuminho", who controls the cocaine trade in Mozambique, was arrested in Maputo Monday. The arrest of Gilberto Aparicio dos Santos at the Montebello Indy Village hotel was first revealed by Carta de Mocambique (13, 14 Apr). Carta reports that he has been travelling between Mozambique and South Africa for a decade, and is also a major supplier of cocaine to South Africa and, via Mozambique, to Europe.

Fuminho is apparently responsible for the increasing number of cocaine "mules", mainly women, caught coming in at the airport. Most get through but some get caught (perhaps by agreement, to show there is some enforcement), and, Carta says, "in jail enjoy privileges that can only be obtained with bribes. Fuminho is believed to have a set of prison staff on his payroll."

To have been active in Mozambique for this long means he must have a high-level patron, who will want him extradited to Brazil quickly so that he is not interrogated in Mozambique and does not reveal his local network. But to detain and charge him in Maputo "would be a great coup against local impunity," writes Carta editor Marcelo Mosse.

Fuminho has been wanted by the Brazilian police and by Interpol since 1999 after his escape from a Sao Paulo prison. When the heat became too intense, he moved to southern Africa and Mozambique, where he felt safer. Police sources told Carta that Fuminho arrived in Maputo in March from Bolivia. He was then apparently caught in Maputo by the sudden lockdown in South Africa, and was staying temporarily in an Indy Village hotel room with two colleagues.

Comment: Drugs are just another commodity traded by international networks, but in Mozambique they have two kinds of value chains. Some industries, like clothing, are highly decentralised and based on a network of local companies. Heroin is traded in that way. Heroin comes by dhow from Pakistan, passes through Mozambique to South Africa, and on to Europe. The heroin barons in Mozambique are Mozambican, often Asian origin business people also engaged in normal trade and import-export; for three decades they have operated with informal agreements with senior Frelimo party figures. One part of the agreement is that no heroin remains in Mozambique; much less heroin is consumed locally than cocaine, and that heroin mostly comes from different networks based in Tanzania.

By contrast, cocaine follows a different capitalist model, used for example by the big mining and gas companies, in which the entire value chain is controlled centrally, by head office. The establishment of Fuminho in Mozambique fits that model - local control by a cartel employee for cocaine, rather than a local subcontractor, as with heroin.

But in the era of Nhympine Chissano there was a struggle, with well placed Frelimo people demanding to be subcontractors, and the cocaine cartels refusing. Since then, a deal must have been reached with allowed Fuminho free movement and control of the trade. The people who made the deal would rather he was sent home and did not reveal his local patrons. jh

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