- The government of Guinea-Bissau has expressed its commitment to unravel drug scandal, vowing that it would not succumb to threats on the lives of the Justice Minister, Carmelita Pires and Attorney General, Luis Manuel Cabral, over the arrest of five people suspected of drugs trafficking.
Carmelita Pires said though she is scared by the threats, the government would not be intimidated and would therefore continue to probe the country's major drug bust which has caused a stand off between police and soldiers at the West African country's main airport.
Ms Pires said she had received two anonymous telephone calls warning her that she was talking too much and that she was digging her own grave. "I will not turn my back on this fight. I will not relinquish my responsibility," vowed Ms Pires.
An arrest of five suspects - three Venezuelans and two Bissau nationals - was made after at least a plane believed to have arrived from South America was seized last month carrying 500 kilograms of cocaine.
The Director of UN Office of Drugs and Crime in West Africa Antonio Mazzitelli said no drugs had been found on plane, despite reports that hundreds of kilos of cocaine had been seized.
"Drug-sniffing dogs had indicated the plane was carrying cocaine, but authorities had to wait five days before seizing it," he said.
Mr. Mazzitelli said anti-drugs operations were beginning to work but needed more support, including physical protection for those involved.
United Nations estimates that at least 50 tonnes of cocaine are shipped through the West African region every year.
The impoverished and politically unstable country has become a major hub for cocaine traffickers where smugglers are aided by rampant corruption in public administration, which allowed them to operate with almost total impunity.
The Justice Minister's threat followed a similar claim by the Attorney General, Luis Manuel Cabral, whose office began probing into a new drug scandal. He said that high-ranking political figures as well as senior personnel in military and security forces did not want his investigation to continue.
There have been concerns by regional and international bodies that Guinea-Bissau runs a risk of being overtaken by drug cartels and becoming a "narco-state". Analysts said the government's lack of resources has been failing its efforts to confront the menace.
Drugs have become a general security issue in West Africa with narco-dollars altering already weak economies of the region. It is estimated that in countries like Guinea Bissau, the value of the drugs being trafficked is greater than the country's entire national income.
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