Monday, December 25, 2006

Cocaine on 94 Percent of Spanish Banknotes

The New York Times

Madrid (Reuters) - Traces of cocaine can be found on 94 percent of banknotes in Spain, a country that has one of the world's highest rates of users, according to a study published on Sunday.

The 100 notes tested were collected in gyms, supermarkets and pharmacies across Spain, where increased affluence and falling street prices have made the drug more and more accessible.

Cocaine now sells for as little as 60 euros ($80) a gram, or 5 euros ($7) a line, and it is regularly used by 1.6 percent of Spaniards, up from 0.9 percent in 1999, a government report said this month.

Law enforcement agencies say cocaine is getting cheaper and more popular in Europe because of efforts to boost production by Colombian paramilitaries and rebels who need money for weapons. Spain is a major entry point to Europe for the smugglers.

It was not clear how many of the notes had been used to snort cocaine and how many had picked up traces from other bills, according to the study by the Sailab laboratory, published in the daily El Mundo.

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