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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Europe and Central Asia


I. Summary

Consumption and drug trafficking are significant problems in Portugal; production/cultivation and money laundering are not. Heroin remains the most troubling drug, and the number of AIDS cases increased over last year. Seizures of ecstasy have increased more than tenfold. Consumption of drugs overall appears stable compared to 1996, except for hashish, which increased significantly. The way drugs enter Portugal has changed over the past five years, with The Netherlands replacing Africa as the main immediate source of narcotics.

The Government of Portugal (GOP) organizes its war on drugs along two fronts, criminal and social, each with an umbrella agency which coordinates the efforts within its domain. The umbrella organizations are the Portuguese Judicial Police and Projecto Vida. Drug users are rarely incarcerated, and Portuguese law treats addiction as an illness rather than a crime.

II. Status of Country

Portugal's significance in the international drug trade stems from its location as a transit point to the rest of Europe for heroin and cocaine trafficking due to the relative ease with which smugglers can take advantage of its long, rugged coastline and shortage of trained law enforcement personnel. Open borders with other western European countries facilitate the trafficking of heroin transiting from Holland and Spain and cocaine from Brazil. In January 1997, the Dutch Navy found narcotics buried in shallow (25 meters) Atlantic reefs about 150 miles southwest of Lisbon. The discovery was accidental--the Navy ship observed a small boat speeding away from the reef and searched the bottom with a minesweeper.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio has announced that he will attend the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in June 1998. At the November 1997 Ibero-America Summit in Venezuela, President Sampaio was successful in getting a commitment from several other countries to hold a drug summit some time next year. In January 1997, the office of the President held a seminar entitled "Drugs: The Current Situation and New Strategies," which was attended by representatives from all 15 EU states.

A cabinet-level ministry, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Drug Addiction, is headed by Jose Socrates, a recent appointee. Prime Minister Guterres speaks publicly and frequently about the drug problem, and takes the opportunity to address the issue at official openings of youth centers and athletic fields. The GOP shares counternarcotics information with the EU agency responsible for this task, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The Ministry of Justice shares information and offers training to their counterparts in lusophone Africa. There is close cooperation with Brazil in narcotrafficking matters.

Accomplishments. Recent clinical statistics show that heroin use, by far the most serious drug problem in Portugal, is holding steady when compared to 1996, neither decreasing nor increasing to any significant degree.

Criminal statistics indicate that cocaine seizures decreased by 46 percent from the first half of 1996. Marijuana and hashish seizures, on the other hand, increased by over 300 percent when compared to the same period in 1996.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The Portuguese Judicial Police (PJP) has overall responsibility for coordinating counternarcotics efforts in Portugal. The PJP, a bureau of the Ministry of Justice, has overall responsibility for coordinating investigations of international drug trafficking, including precursors, and for activities related to criminal association and organized distribution nets. The PJP focus on major traffickers/organizations. Every arrest for drugs, and every drug seizure, including maritime seizures, made by any of the agencies discussed below, must be reported to the PJP, who maintain central files and statistics related to narcotics. These statistics are publicized throughout Portugal and shared with the EU government in Brussels and the DEA in Madrid. The PJP is currently pressing for liberalized extradition laws, making it easier to extradite foreign nationals found guilty of trafficking in Portugal.

The Public Security Police (PSP) are the uniformed policemen who work for the municipalities. They are responsible for activities related to small trafficking/distribution to consumers and for consumption in public places. The Republican National Guard (GNR) has the same responsibilities as the PSP, but functions outside municipalities and along the highways. The Bureau of Customs controls commodities and transportation by sea or air.

Corruption. Corruption among law enforcement officials is not a substantial problem in Portugal. There have been no cases of official corruption reported during the past year.

Agreements and Treaties. As a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, Portugal continues to support its goals and objectives. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Portugal.

Portugal closely monitors the import of chemicals that could possibly be used in drug manufacture. Importers must identify the end user of all chemicals in order to prevent diversion. Enforcement cooperation remains good, with Germany, the UK, and Sweden having drug liaison officers resident in Portugal.

Cultivation/Production. A small amount of marijuana is raised by individuals in northern Portugal, but the amount is not significant. However, the potential for growing cannabis in Portugal does exist.

Drug Flow/Transit. According to PJP sources, the entry of drugs into Portugal has changed completely during the past five years. Prior to 1992, hashish and opium were grown in Afghanistan, processed (opium into heroin) in Pakistan, and delivered to people of Indian origin living in Mozambique. From there, the drugs entered by boat or plane, accompanied by the Portuguese-speaking Mozambicans who sold them to Portuguese distributors and users.

Since 1992, opium cultivated in Afghanistan and hashish cultivated in Morocco are transported overland to Turkey, then driven by Turks to Holland in large, 16-wheel trucks. These lorries, ostensibly transporting Turkish tobacco, are "sealed" before entering the first Schengen country and inspected again only when they are offloaded. The smugglers offload in the Netherlands, and addicts say Afghan and Moroccan heroin and hashish are superior to the African imports, and cheaper, too. Cocaine is grown in Colombia and enters Portugal via Brazil by boat or plane.

Demand Reduction. The umbrella organization charged with responsibility for the reintegration of drug addicts, as well as for prevention and public awareness, is Projecto Vida ("Life Project.") It is responsible for mobilizing community action by supporting and coordinating NGO's and governmental agencies at all levels.

Portuguese law encourages treatment rather than penal censure and foresees a diverse range of possibilities, whose final goal is to give the drug addict a chance to undergo treatment and give up consumption. Created in 1987 by the national government, the Life Project's High Commission (essentially a bureau in the Ministry of Health) oversees and directs the activities involved in the social aspects of the drug problem. The organization is funded largely by the national lottery, but also receives funding from three other Ministeries--Education, Labor and Social Security. Several large NGO's receive Projecto Vida funding and sit on the board of directors. The Labor Ministry is represented and tries to find employment for recovering addicts. Even the Defense Ministry is involved, offering psychiatric help and rehabilitation to members of the Armed Forces (including treatment for alcoholism.) The NGO's of Projecto Vida are principally volunteer groups made up of former addicts; about one-third of them are affiliated with religious organizations.

Projecto Vida's chairman was a highly respected Roman Catholic Priest, Feytor Pinto, known to all Portuguese as Padre Feytor. The Life Project has drug clinics in every city in Portugal and many small towns, as well. These clinics, called "Cats" (Centros de Apoio a Toxicodependentes) are free of charge and offer health services, psychiatric counseling, a methadone program and detoxification services to addicts. 80 percent of the clients are male, with an average age of 27.4 years.

A new cabinet-level ministry has been named to combat the problem of drug addicition, an indication of governmental concern and effort.The Roman Catholic priest, Feytor Pinto, resigned in December, 1997 citing his belief that the Life Project should be administered by a civil servant, not a cleric, now that there is a ministry charged with the issue of drug addiction.

In an effort to control AIDS and hepatitis, the Life Project administers a program called "say no to second-hand needles." It offers free needle exchange at over 2,500 pharmacies throughout Portugal. Projecto Vida conducts classes about drugs at all levels of public schools and in adult education programs. It is the primary organization in Portugal charged with drug awareness. The project offers training to health professionals and school teachers.

The Life Project also studies use patterns among the population. They have made two large, nation-wide studies, in 1989 and 1995, which show that Portuguese do not begin using drugs early in life. However, Portuguese school children in grades seven through nine have a high rate of tobacco use (37 percent) and alcohol use (58 percent.)

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives. The Drug Enforcement Administration maintains an office at Embassy Madrid with regional responsibilities for Portugal. In October of this year, DEA and the EU co-sponsored a conference on multilateral chemical reporting, held in Lisbon and attended by 12 of the 15 EU member states.

Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation. On September 3, 1997, Portugal made substantial revisions to the constitution concerning extradition. One major change is that Portugal will now extradite its own citizens for crimes of terrorism and organized crime where there is reciprocity established by international conventions and the requesting state guarantees a fair and equitable process. Extradition continues to be forbidden for political offenses or for crimes which could carry the death penalty in the requesting state. However, the constitution now authorizes extradition for crimes punishable by life imprisonment, if the requesting state offers assurances that a sentence of life imprisonment will not be imposed or carried out.

In 1998, the United States will propose renegotiation of the 1908 Extradition Treaty between the US and Portugal in an effort to ensure that drug offenses are covered and to incorporate changes that will comply with the new requirements of the Portuguese Constitution.

At a legal seminar on November 21, 1997, Minister of Justice Vera Jardim said that Portugal had been under considerable pressure to modify the Article on Extradition in the constitution by other countries in the European Union.

The Road Ahead. There is every indication that Portugal will continue and even increase its counternarcotics efforts, both on the criminal and civil fronts.


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