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French police close beaches in south west France after 1,000kg of cocaine washes ashore

Authorities have closed beaches in south west France as packages of cocaine continue to mysteriously wash up along the country's Atlantic coast, with more than 1,000 kilograms discovered since mid-October.

French police close beaches in south west France after 1,000kg of cocaine washes ashore
Packets of cocaine have been washing ashore since October in western France. Photo: AFP

The packages are now being found farther north, with a five-kilo parcel turning up at Camaret-sur-Mer on the western tip of Brittany on Tuesday, Philippe Astruc, the public prosecutor in Rennes, told AFP.

“It's the same cargo,” Astruc said, adding that “we're going to still be finding them for a while”.

“Each tide brings in a batch. They are still fairly significant with around 100 kilos arriving each day all along the coast,” he said.

READ ALSO The riddle of the Garfield telephones washing up on France's beaches

Customs officers are also finding some of the packages at sea, he said.

Officials in Rennes are coordinating the searches for the packages, which have appeared on hundreds of kilometres of coastline all the way south to the posh resort town of Biarritz.

Around 100 investigators are working with European counterparts as well as the US Drug Enforcement Agency to try to figure out why the drugs have been washing ashore almost daily, Astruc said.

The cocaine is extremely pure at some 83 percent and therefore highly dangerous, Astruc said, urging people not to touch the packages and to alert the police.

That has not stopped some from trying to get their hands on the drugs, whose street value would be in the millions of euros, prompting police to close some beaches and start carrying out patrols.

“We fear that people will try and find these products and use them — which is incredibly dangerous — and that traffickers or would-be traffickers will say 'we can make some money here',” Astruc said.

'Tempting'

On Monday, a 17-year-old was caught with five kilos of cocaine at Lacanau, a closed-off surfing beach near the southwestern city of Bordeaux — he had come from Toulouse, a three-hour drive away.

A half-dozen other beaches in the area have been closed as well, with police stopping walkers for searches and also checking cars leaving nearby parking lots.

A police helicopter was also being used along the 125-kilometre stretch between Cap Ferret and Soulac-sur-Mer, which includes the Lacanau beach.

A woman who gave her name as Martine failed to notice the closure signs at the Porge beach on Monday, when officers told her and a friend to leave.

“When we turned around we saw a package next to the water,” she said, saying they alerted the police, who estimated it weighed some four kilos before sealing it in a plastic bag.

“It would have been tempting to take it, but we're honest!” she told AFP.

'Very dangerous'

Astruc said 1,010 kilos (nearly 2,230 pounds) have been recovered so far, a sharp jump from just two days ago, when 763 kilos were reported.

“In this form it's a very dangerous product that could cause an overdose,” his office said Sunday. 

“There are several hypotheses, but for the moment we think it's likely they were jettisoned because of a mechanical problem or during a storm,” Astruc said in a statement on Sunday.

Investigators are poring over maritime logs from mid-October for clues about where the drugs might have come from, he said Tuesday.

The Sud-Ouest newspaper reported over the weekend that some packages found on the beach at Arcachon, southwest of Bordeaux,were marked “Diamante” or “Brillante”.

Packages of cocaine marked with the same words also reportedly washed up in Florida during hurricane Dorian in September, it said.

Police seized a record or more than 140 tons of cocaine across Europe in 2017, the most recent data available from the EU's European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, published in June.

Most was seized in Belgium and Spain, long the main port of entry for the drug, and its purity has increased markedly over the past ten years, the agency said.

 

 

 

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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