By Dialogo April 20, 2009 Spanish police said they had dismantled a major drug-smuggling network in the northwestern Galicia region, a key entry point for South American cocaine into Europe. Police arrested 34 people and seized 12 speed boats, two yachts, two fishing boats, along with cranes, tractors and lorries. The leader of the group, identified only by his nickname “Patoco”, died last November after putting in place “the maritime infrastructure necessary” to allow the traffickers “to transport the drugs by sea across the Atlantic,” police said in a statement. With its maze of coves, caves and inlets that dot its undeveloped coastline, Galicia has long been a smuggler’s paradise. Spain’s proximity to north Africa, a key source of hashish, and its close ties with its former colonies in Latin America, a major cocaine producing region, have made it an important gateway for international drug dealers. Spanish customs agents seized nearly 22 tonnes of cocaine in 2008, compared to 25 tonnes in 2007. Seizures of hashish rose to 212 tonnes from 171 tonnes.