World Gangz

The Real Cartel: Central Asia and Extremist Drug Lords

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The Real Cartel, Located in Central Asia

Sitting between Russia, China and the Middle East is a region of the world known as Central Asia. The region of Central Asia consists of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. As majority of these countries were once part of the former Soviet Union, the fall of the former Soviet has given these countries their independence, which was only about 30 years ago, but none have seen true prosperity since, especially as Russia still has a lot of dealings in the countries of Central Asia.

A region of the world that is probably the least talked about consists of a very young population with over half the population living in rural areas that mostly have a desert mountainous terrain, while solely living off of the production gas and other natural minerals, as well crops like cotton.

A rural community of Central Asia.  Editorial Credit: Fredy Thuerig / Shutterstock

There is one crop that is not grown and cultivated in Central Asia, but it has contributed much to the daily lives of many in the communities of Central Asia, heroin grown within the country of Afghanistan. In a somewhat comparison of the drug route from the production of cocaine in Colombia transporting through Mexico and into the United States, is similar to the production of heroin in Afghanistan that is then transported through Central Asia into Russia and Europe.

Afghanistan has become the largest distributor of opium and heroin in the world, dominating the entire eastern hemisphere, by far overcoming the former opium production within the Golden Triangle of southeast Asia.

Extremist groups that operate in Afghanistan did issue a country wide ban on the production of opium during their reign, but the ban only lasted for a short period as production has been constantly increasing. While marijuana and hashish, which Afghanistan is also the world’s largest producer of, are also grown in the country the cultivation of opium in southern Afghanistan, as well parts of northern Afghanistan, has become very profitable for many.

Central Asian places like Tajikistan are one of the first destinations of the drug route for heroin from Afghanistan. With large sums of money at stake, many countries have seen corruption at levels, from the people patrolling the border to country leaders or prominent authority figures, while corruption ranges from just simply turning a blind to eye to actual involvement.

As much of the local economy comes from people who migrate to other regions of the world, whether Russia or Europe, to earn a living there and then send money back to their native country, the drug trade is an alternative source of income for some willing to take the chance. Many powerful people from the Central Asian region have a huge hand in the heroin and opium trade.  Also, over the years drug trafficking by foreigners has been increasing in the region, which has helped facilitate drug usage in Central Asia.

While some countries participate more than others in the fight against the drug trade, some believe there is still more to be done in preventing drug trafficking through Central Asia. Despite not having the possibility of being a deterrent, drug laws are not nearly as extreme as other places in the world, with Southeast Asia coming to mind, as depending on the quantity sentencing can vary from 3 years to 20 years.  A more proper comparison for Americans is the drug laws and judicial system of conservative southern states within the United States.

Image of drug usage in Central Asia

With drug trafficking through Central Asia comes drug usage in Central Asia as places like Kyrgyzstan has some of the worse heroin and opium abuse among the Central Asian countries.

Despite the heavy alcohol consumption and marijuana cultivation in countries like Kazakhstan, as well Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, especially since the cannabis plant was discovered near the Himalayas mountain range, the biggest problem is the local abuse of heroin. The larger cities of Central Asia have seen the most increase in drug activity, usage and drug trafficking, as places like the city of Osh are viewed as one of the main cities for the narcotics trade.

While there is not much violence from the drug trade compared to the cartel wars of Mexico, the communities of Central Asia have been affected in other ways, through disease, the increase of poverty, corruption, and the overall being of stagnant as anybody who has ever experience drugs knows that the activity stunts any growth and progress of an individual and of a community.

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