Hello Kitty cocaine
According to the UNODC: Cocaine manufacture reached record levels in 2019 despite growth losing momentum The output of global cocaine manufacture doubled between 2014 and 2019 to reach an estimated 1,784 tons (expressed at 100 percent purity) in 2019, the highest level ever recorded. At the same time, growth in the output of cocaine manufacture has been slowing, pointing to a trend towards stabilization. Compared with the year prior, global cocaine manufacture increased by 37 percent in 2016, 23 percent in 2017, 5 percent in 2018 and 3.5 percent in 2019.1 The trend towards stabilization has mainly been the result of changes in coca bush cultivation, despite ongoing increases in productivity (yield per hectare). [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

The bulk of the cocaine seized worldwide continues to be seized in the Americas, which accounted for 83 percent of the global quantity intercepted in 2019, the majority being seized in South America. The total quantity of cocaine seized in South America increased by 5 percent between 2018 and 2019, to 755 tons, a record high, with most countries in the subregion, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru, reporting increases. Among the 15 countries reporting the largest quantities of cocaine seized in 2019, 10 were located in the Americas, 4 in Western and Central Europe and 1 in Asia.

Seizures by region: 1) South America (53 percent); 2) North America (19 percent); 3) Western and Central Europe (15 percent); 4) Central America (10 percent); 5) Asia (1.3 percent); 6) Caribbean (1 percent); 7) Africa (0.9 percent); 8) Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (0.4 percent); 9) Oceania (0.1 percent Other 2.3 percent

Seizures by country: 1) Colombia (34 percent); 2) United States of America (18 percent); 3) Brazil (7 percent); 4) Panama (5 percent); 5) Belgium (4.5 percent); 6) Netherlands (3.1 percent); 7) Peru (2.9 percent); 8) Spain (2.6 percent); 9) Ecuador (2.4 percent); 10) Costa Rica (2.2 percent); 11) Venezuela (2 percent); 12) Bolivia(1.8 percent); 13) Guatemala (1.3 percent); 14) Malaysia (1.1 percent); 15) France (1 percent); 16) Mexico (0.9 percent); 17) Africa 0.9 percent

The mark-up of cocaine from the time farmers are paid for their coca leaves to the time cocaine is sold on the street is a hundred fold. In the 1990s a farmer was paid about $600 for coca leaves needed to make one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine. This in turn made coca paste that sold for around $850. The export price for a kilogram of cocaine was about $1,500. The wholesale price in the U.S. was $25,000 for a kilogram. In Europe it was $45,000 a kilogram. A kilogram of crack cocaine sold for about $50,000 on the streets of New York, cocaine powder, $110,000. At its peak in 1979 a kilogram of cocaine sold for US$75,000, about 6½ time the price of gold. The decline of prices for cocaine in the 1980s and 90s led producers to develop new markets in Europe and enter the opium and heroin trade.

Making the cocaine and selling it abroad is where the big money is. In the 1980s and 90s Colombian drug lords such as Pablo Escobar made billions when they held a near monopoly on the cocaine trade. By the 1990s drug lords in Bolivia and Peru were producing more cocaine themselves and smuggling it to Europe and the United States rather than simply supplying coca leaves to Colombia as long was the case. At that time smugglers and drug lords in Mexico began getting more involved in the cocaine trade.

Destinations of the World’s Cocaine: Mostly the U.S. and Europe

North America, particularly the U.S., is the world’s largest cocaine market According to the UNODC: The United States, remains the main final destination of cocaine smuggled from the Andean countries. In 2019, the quantity of cocaine seized in North America rose by 2 percent, to 277 tons, a record high. The United States continued to account for the vast majority (94 percent) of the cocaine seized in North America. Nonetheless, the importance of the United States as the world’s largest cocaine market may be decreasing compared with a few decades ago: the share of the quantities of cocaine seized in the United States decreased from 49 percent of the global total in 1989 to 36 percent in 1999 and 18 percent in 2019. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

In Central America, the quantity of cocaine seized rose by 19 percent, to 144 tons in 2019. More than half of the total quantity seized in the subregion was seized by Panama, which also accounted for 5 percent of the global total. This was followed by Costa Rica (2 percent of the global total) and Guatemala (1 percent of the global total). The quantity of cocaine seized by countries in the Caribbean more than doubled in 2019 to reach 14 tons (1 percent of the global total). The largest quantities were seized, once again, by the Dominican Republic (0.7 percent of the global total), followed by Jamaica and the Bahamas.

Scorpion brand cocaine
There have been sharp increase in the quantity of cocaine seized in Europe, with Western and Central Europe remaining the second largest destination market for cocaine worldwide In 2019, Europe continued to account for the largest quantity of cocaine seized outside the Americas. The largest quantities intercepted in the region were reported by countries in Western and Central Europe, in particular Belgium (5 percent of the global total), followed by, the Netherlands and Spain (3 percent each) and France and Portugal (1 percent each). Western and Central Europe accounted for slightly more than 97 percent of all the cocaine intercepted in Europe in 2019, followed by South-Eastern Europe (about 2 percent) and Eastern Europe (less than 1 percent), where synthetic stimulants such as amphetamines and cathinones are more popular than cocaine.

Quantity of cocaine seized in Asia suggests that the relatively small cocaine market in the region continues to expand For many years, the largest quantities of cocaine seized worldwide after the Americas and Europe were reported by countries in Africa. In 2019, however, for the second year in a row, the next largest quantities of cocaine seized were reported by countries in Asia, which accounted for 19 tons of cocaine seized, a record high and 1.3 percent of the global total. The quantity of cocaine seized in Asia quintupled from 2018 to 2019 and was — starting from a very low base — 28 times larger than the quantity seized a decade prior to that. The largest increase from 2018 to 2019 was reported in East and Southeast Asia (sevenfold increase) although the quantities of cocaine seized also increased in most other subregions.

Cocaine seizures in Africa show that the transit of the drug through the region may have increased The quantity of cocaine seized in Africa almost quadrupled from 2018 to 2019 and increased eightfold compared with 2009, to reach close to 13 tons, a record high (0.9 percent of the global total). Around 11.1 tons, or some 86 percent of the cocaine seized in Africa in 2019, was reported by countries in West and Central Africa, in particular Cabo Verde (11 tons), followed by countries in North Africa (1.8 tons or 14 percent of the African total), in particular Morocco (1.5 tons). Far less was seized by countries in Southern Africa (0.2 percent of the African total) and East Africa (0.05 percent).

Oceania saw an increase in the quantity of cocaine seized over the last decade, albeit a decrease in recent years The quantity of cocaine seized in Oceania in 2019 was five times larger than that seized in 2009. Nonetheless, in contrast to the situation in other regions, the amount of cocaine seized in Oceania has decreased in recent years, from 4.3 tons in 2017 to 2.1 tons in 2018 and 1.5 tons in 2019, the equivalent of 0.1 percent of global seizures; decreases have been reported by both Australia and New Zealand. Australia accounted for almost 95 percent of the quantity of cocaine seized in Oceania in 2019 and New Zealand for the remainder; no cocaine seizures were reported by other countries in the region in 2019. By contrast, in July 2020, 500 kilograms of cocaine were seized in Papua New Guinea from a Melbourne-based criminal syndicate.

Cocaine Smuggling

Several hundred tons of cocaine is smuggled into the United States every year. It arrives by land, sea and air direct from the producing countries or via way stations in Mexico or countries in the Caribbean and Central America. The drug is transported in the hollowed out pallets on ships, stuffed into the panty hose of air line passengers, ferried on 125 mile-per-hour speed boats, and smuggled in scores of other ways. All kinds of people are mixed up in the trade. One customs agent in Florida told National Geographic , "I think the only type of [smuggler] we haven't arrested is a nun. We have arrested a priest.” [Source: Peter White, National Geographic, January 1989]

Cocaine is is usually smuggled into the United States by air or ship, or overland at the Mexican border. In the old days, shipments of drugs from Colombia to Mexico were transported by Cessna aircraft. Drug traffickers from Mexico have used old Boeing 727s and French Caravelle jets to smuggle several tons of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico. The jets traveled at night with their lights and radar transponders turned off and with false identification numbers. The planes landed on large airstrips, often with the knowledge of the military. The method was cost-effective and inexpensive enough that the jets could abandoned if necessary. Smaller planes used to bring cocaine into the U.S. or drop off points near the U.S. border. Pilots for those flights often demanded about $500,000 to fly a load of cocaine. Even at that price if a pilots carried 250 kilograms he added only $2,000 to the price of a kilogram which could sell for $100,000.

Smugglers known to customs officials as "internals" or "body packers" swallow condoms filled with cocaine or heroin. it is estimated that half the drugs transported by people through airports are smuggled in this way even though the condoms can be spotted with X-ray machines. One 21-year-old Colombian man who died from a heroin overdose after a condom leaked had his abdomen slit open by his drug dealing "contact" who removed the drugs and then dumped the body in a field.

One of the most popular smuggling methods in Mexico is using the hollowed-out chassis, gas tank, or secret compartments specially built into large coming over the border. The drug-carrying trucks easily get which get lost among the thousands of trucks that don't carry drugs but bring in produce and factory goods from Mexico. Once Customs officials figure out a way to crack down on a particular smuggling method. Traffickers simply turn to another method. Drugs are now frequently distributed using the international postal system.

Large Cocaine Seizures

In the early 2001, the U.S. Coast Guard had two major cocaine seizures: one of 8 tones and another of 13 tons. These seizures, as large as they were, had no effect on drug prices. U.S. Customs seized around 100 tons of cocaine in 1994. World cocaine seizures that year were 155 tons.

The greatest drug haul of all time was the seizure 20 tons of cocaine, “conservatively” valued at $2 billion, in a Los Angeles in 1989. Associated Press reported: “The cocaine was seized at a warehouse in a light industrial area of Sylmar, a quiet, mostly residential section of Los Angeles in the northern San Fernando Valley, about 25 miles from downtown. The warehouse is on a tree-lined street near the San Gabriel foothills. Across the street are offices for the Coca-Cola Bottling Co.; next door is a heart pacemaker manufacturer and a hydraulic pump supplier.” Three menwere arrested for investigation of conspiring to distribute cocaine, Lochridge said. “They claimed to be Mexican, but their accents were South American,” a drug industry said. he said. [Source: Associated Press, September 30, 1989]

The largest ever cocaine seizure in Colombia was eight tons seized by police in 2016. AFP reported: “Police said in a statement that they found the cache "of approximately eight tons of cocaine belonging to the Usuga Clan" hidden in a banana plantation in Turbo near the Panamanian border. “Soon after sunrise Sunday, 50 police commandos supported by two Black Hawk helicopters burst into the plantation. There they found 359 canvas sacks loaded with packs of cocaine hidden in a small cubicle under a cement cover 2.5 meters underground. Police said that the drugs belonged to one Colombia's most notorious criminals: Roberto Vargas Gutierrez, alias Gavilan (meaning "hawk" in English), the clan's number two man. [Source: AFP, May 17, 2016]

“Three suspects were arrested and another three escaped, the statement read. “Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said that nearly 1.5 tons of cocaine were wrapped "and ready to go out to the export market." “He said the drugs had "a New York street value" of $250 million. Villegas confirmed this was the largest seizure ever of cocaine on Colombian territory, though there may have been slightly larger seizures at sea.

“Authorities say the Usuga Clan, which emerged after the mass demobilization of right-wing paramilitaries a decade ago, ships tons of cocaine from Colombia to Central America and on to the United States. The Uraba border region where the latest haul was seized has a long history of smuggling and drug trafficking. Colombia announced in early May "record" seizures of 87.5 tons of cocaine in the first few months of 2016. According to the UN, Colombia exported some 442 tons of cocaine in 2014.

Cocaine Trafficking Routes to the U.S.

20110305-cocaine dea cocaine_base_in_ziplocks.jpg
crack for sale
According to the UNODC: In the Americas, the primary cocaine trafficking flow continues to be from Colombia to North America, in particular the United States. Analysis of cocaine seizure samples in the United States suggests that, in 2019, 87 percent of that cocaine originated in Colombia and 9 percent in Peru. Less than 1 percent of the cocaine found on the United States market is smuggled directly; the bulk transits a number of countries before reaching the United States.According to United States authorities, cocaine trafficking to North America typically starts in the Andean countries, with cocaine mostly departing from Colombia and Ecuador via the eastern Pacific route, which is estimated to account for 74 percent of all cocaine smuggled to North America. This is followed by the western Caribbean route (16 percent), which starts from Colombia. The third trafficking route is the Caribbean route (along which 8 percent of cocaine seized in North America is trafficked), which starts from both Colombia and Venezuela. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

The quantities of cocaine seized along the drug trafficking routes from the Andean countries to North America, that is, the amount of cocaine seized in Central America, the Caribbean and North America, rose by more than 40 percent over the period 2015–2019, including by 7 percent from 2018 to 2019. The largest growth along this route was reported in Central America, where the quantities of cocaine seized increased by 60 percent over the period 2015–2019, which is possibly a reflection of an increasing number of shipments of cocaine transiting Central America on the way to Mexico. By contrast, the quantities of cocaine seized in the Caribbean decreased between 2015 and 2018 and only partly recovered in 2019.

According to United States authorities, the eastern Pacific route, by boat, in particular go-fast vessels or semi-submersibles, and, to a lesser extent, the Atlantic routes (western Caribbean and Caribbean routes), by go-fast vessels and aircraft, remain the main cocaine trafficking routes from Colombia to the north. According to reports by Member States, the bulk of cocaine trafficking via Central America takes place by sea, but recent trends in Guatemala show a decrease in the use of the sea route and an increase in air trafficking (from 4 percent of all cocaine seized that entered Guatemala in 2017 to 20 percent in 2018 and 30 percent in 2019), primarily reflecting an increase in flights smuggling cocaine from Venezuela to Guatemala. Venezuela thus emerged as the second most important transit/departure country (25 percent of the total) after Colombia (75 percent) for the cocaine seized in Guatemala in 2019.

According to United States authorities, the main cocaine trafficking routes, the eastern Pacific route and the western Caribbean route, converge in Mexico, from where the drug enters the United States, mostly by land across the country’s south-western border. It is estimated that about 80 percent of the cocaine found on the United States market in 2019 had transited Mexico. However, amounts seized on the south-western border point to an increase in cocaine trafficking via Mexico up to 2017, after which they point to a decrease, while the overall quantities of cocaine seized in the United States continued to rise.These trends suggest the emergence of alternative cocaine trafficking routes, including shipments of the drug to seaports in the United States. In fact, the largest quantities of cocaine seized in the United States in 2019 were reported in seaports in Florida, followed by California (mostly along the south-western border with Mexico), Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.

Mexican criminal organizations continue to control much of the import of cocaine into the United States and wholesale cocaine trafficking within the country. For retail distribution, they rely heavily, however, on local criminal groups and street gangs. According to United States authorities, Mexican criminal groups often procure multi-ton shipments of cocaine from drug traffickers in South America, most notably Colombian criminal groups, then move the drug through Central America and Mexico before smuggling it into the United States across the south-western border. By contrast, cocaine trafficking along the Caribbean route, primarily by sea and air, involves Dominican criminal groups, among others. Patterns of cocaine trafficking into Mexico seem to have changed recently, from a situation in 2017 in which most cocaine was being smuggled by sea (mostly from Colombia) and land (from Guatemala) to a situation in 2019 in which the bulk (52 percent) was reported to have entered the country by air.

Imaginative Cocaine Smuggling Methods

One-kilo bricks of cocaine are routinely found in the false bottoms of cages carrying poisonous snakes. One official told the New York Times magazine, "You've got cobras that are 12 feet long" and sometimes there are drugs in the snake. "Who's going to pull it out and feel it?"

In June 1993, customs officials at Miami International Airport found 37 pounds (worth $1 million) of cocaine-filled condoms sewn into the rectum of live boa constrictor. Around the same time a Custom's inspector at Kennedy International found a strange lump in a sickly-looking 4-year-old sheepdog. The dog was X-rayed, and surgery uncovered five pounds of cocaine that had been surgically implanted in the dogs abdomen.

Customs officials in the U.S. have found cocaine in concrete fence posts from Venezuela that cost more to ship than they were worth, surfboards that have been hollowed and carefully refinished, and the carcasses of eviscerated parrots. A man walking slowly and painfully through an airport in Dan Juan, Puerto Rico was found to have half-pound packets of cocaine surgically sewn into his legs. Cocaine has been surgically bonded to fiberglass dog-kennel cages, and molded and spray painted into a bust of Jesus Christ. An oily sludge on the bottom of bags of tropical fish flown from Colombia to Miami turned out to be liquid cocaine, which doesn't dissolve in water.

Cocaine and heroin coming into the U.S. from Mexico have been smuggled in the stomachs of racehorses. An old trick is for small-time smugglers to to put a bag of heroin or cocaine in an ice cream cone and cover it with ice cream and slowly lick it while crossing the border. Cocaine and heroin coming in from Colombia have been packed plaster shells painted to look like yams. The same drugs from the Dominican Republic have been packed inside mannequins.

Colombian smugglers are using semi-submersible boats that ride low in the water. They are virtually invisible to radar, and are capable of carrying one ton shipments of drugs.

Cocaine bricks

“Unified” Transatlantic Cocaine Market?

According to the UNODC: Over the past decade, trends in the retail purity of cocaine in the world’s two largest cocaine markets, the United States and Europe, have started to evolve in parallel. The retail purity of cocaine decreased after 2006 in both the United States and Europe. This was mainly a reflection of a decrease in cocaine manufacture in Colombia, before increasing again after 2013, which was likely a result of an increase in cocaine manufacture in the Andean countries, most notably Colombia. While the purity of cocaine on the United States market was traditionally substantially higher than in Europe, this has changed in recent years. Since 2012, the retail purity of cocaine has been almost identical in both markets and has moved in the same upward direction.a, b In terms of absolute value, the purity of cocaine in Europe has caught up with cocaine purity in the United States, suggesting that the Atlantic Ocean is becoming less of a hurdle for traffickers than it used to be, at least when measured against the cocaine trafficking route from the Andean countries northward to the United States. Europe has thus become a more competitive consumer of cocaine and the fact that the trend in Europe is in parallel with the trend in the United States suggests that the cocaine market in Europe is as responsive to changes at the source as the market in the United States. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

While it can be argued that this convergence is the sign of an increasingly “unified” transatlantic cocaine market, the factors behind it are likely to be numerous. They include the emergence of “new” players among the transatlantic cocaine traffickers, such as organized crime groups from countries in South-Eastern Europe, as well as collaboration between lesser actors, resulting in increased competition and therefore an increase in the efficiency of cocaine trafficking to Europe. The supply chain has also changed, with a reduction in monopolies, both in terms of the cocaine manufacture chain in South America and in terms of transatlantic cocaine trafficking, which is now seeing new actors cutting out intermediaries. It is also possible that the world’s largest cocaine market, that of the United States, has reached saturation and/or that law enforcement activities along the trafficking routes to North America have contributed to the European market being considered the path of least resistance and thus led to an increase in cocaine trafficking to Europe from South America.

Elsewhere in North America, Canada has been identified as a transit country for cocaine destined for Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Mexico reported that about 4 percent of the cocaine seized in 2018 had been destined for the Netherlands and 8 percent of the cocaine seized in 2019 had been destined for China.53 Moreover, over the period 2015–2019, countries in Asia (China and Indonesia), Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), Africa (Kenya) and Europe (Iceland) reported that cocaine had transited Mexico, among other countries, prior to arriving on their territories.

Smuggling Cocaine by Sea

According to the UNODC: Irrespective of the increase in the smuggling of cocaine by air in some countries in 2019 (notably Mexico and Guatemala), available data also suggest that most of the cocaine trafficked from the Andean countries to the United States continues to be seized at sea. This corresponds with reports showing that most cocaine seizures by United States authorities continue to be made at sea off the United States mainland. At the same time, there has been an increase in cocaine shipments by mail, which are estimated to account for 9 percent of all cocaine imports into the United States (up from less than 5 percent of the total in 2015), possibly an indication of the increasing number of transactions made over the dark web, which usually involve shipments by mail. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

Cocaine seizures in European ports continue unabated The record quantities of cocaine intercepted in Europe in recent years have been driven, to a large extent, by seized consignments that reached Europe by sea, in particular in containerized freight in seaports, although seizures are also made at sea. Very large quantities of cocaine have been seized in the seaports of Antwerp, Belgium, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and, most recently, Hamburg, Germany, while large quantities have also been seized in Spanish and Italian seaports. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, preliminary data on seizures registered by customs authorities in 12 countries in Western and Central Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain) indicate that the quantities of cocaine seized in seaports increased by 18 percent in 2020 (from 118 tons to 140 tons). The quantity of cocaine intercepted in the Port of Antwerp, in particular, has increased steadily in recent years, and has come to account for a significant share of the quantity of cocaine seized in all of Europe (28 percent in 2019). Most of the cocaine that reaches Antwerp is most likely intended for criminal organizations operating out of the Netherlands from where the cocaine is distributed to other European destinations.

As reported by media sources 16 tons of cocaine shipped from Paraguay were seized at the Port of Hamburg in February 2021. An individual who was also responsible for another shipment of 7 tons seized in parallel at Antwerp was involved, which confirmed the centrality of criminal organizations based in the Netherlands with transnational connections in managing the import of cocaine into Europe.

Most of the cocaine seized in the United States is intended for the domestic market, although some cocaine smuggled into the country is also intended for onward trafficking to other countries. Based on reports to UNODC of countries of origin, transit and destination of drugs seized between 2015 and 2019 by various countries, some cocaine shipments had also transited the United States before reaching other countries in North America (Canada), Asia (Indonesia, Japan and Republic of Korea), Oceania (Australia), Africa (South Africa) and Europe (Belgium, Ireland and Italy).52 The use of the United States as a transit country for cocaine shipments to Europe seems to be a rather recent phenomenon, however.

The increase in the amount of cocaine seized in the United States in 2019 can be primarily attributed to a record seizure of close to 18 tons of cocaine from a cargo container on the MSC Gayane in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 2019, destined for Antwerp,

Combating the Cocaine Trade

Most of the U.S. government's efforts to combat the supply of drugs has been directed at Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. Drug enforcement officials have done things like track all suppliers of solvents derived from petroleum used to purify cocaine. Some have suggested eradicating coca crops by spraying herbicides from airplanes. The efforts have generally had little effect other than relocating and reorganizing production. Dramatic decreases in coca leaf production in Peru and Bolivia, for example, were accompanied by equally dramatic increases in coca leaf production in Colombia. Most programs are doomed because cocaine is simply too profitable. With the wholesale price being so high, distributors can easily afford to pay growers more money if necessary without profits being affected too much.

U.S. Customs tries to fight back against drug smugglers with radar planes, P-3Orion spy planes and blimps to catch boats and low flying planes; X ray machines and special toilets to catch "body backers."But essentially there is too much of the drug, too many way to smuggle it along the long U.S. border...and too little manpower for the government to have much of an effect. [Source: Peter White, National Geographic, January 1989]

One of the most effective weapons against the drug lords in South America was the use of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) military radar planes that scanned the skies looking for small planes carrying coca leaves from the coca leaf fields in Peru to the laboratories in Colombia. Four planes were used to track an area in the Colombian, Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon and Andes region that was roughly the size of the United Sates east of the Mississippi. [Source: James Brooks, New York Times]

In 1993, around 600 suspected flights were identified in Colombia and 27 drug planes were destroyed, almost all of them on the ground. In 1992 and 1993 the Peruvian Air Force intercepted 190 drug planes and shot down 11 of them. Often observers would track the planes and watch where they landed. This way drug enforcement officials were able to locate laboratories, warehouses and clandestine air strips. With he help of information supplied by the AWACS planes the Colombian government seized 31.5 tons of cocaine in 1993, a record.

The United States has a very sophisticated detection system that extends from the Mexican-U.S. border to Bolivia but because such a large area is covered surveillance is spread out pretty thin and there are lots of gaps. In 1996, the United States spent $3 billion to fight drugs but the anti-drug program was largely regarded as a failure because, despite large seizures and the interdiction of drug flights, massive quantities of drugs still got through.

The Peruvian and Colombians air forces are authorized to shoot down planes suspected of ferrying cocaine and blow up airstrips. The shoot up approach had it problems. It set off a wave of chronic violence in which drug traffickers in Colombia killed police, prosecutors and judges. Freezing the accounts of drug traffickers is regarded as the best way to get at them.

Certification is a process in which the United States decides whether or not 31 countries in Latin American and Asia or doing enough to combat drug trade. Decertification results in economic sanctions and the cut of aid from American and international institutions. Myanmar and Colombia have been decertified in the past.

Response to Efforts to Combat the Cocaine Trade

Anti-drug efforts are sometimes compared to the Pillsbury dough boy. If you squeeze it one place it simply bulges somewhere else. An American army officer in Bolivia told National Geographic, "Those narcos use textbook insurgency tactics. They're compartmentalized, good at intelligence. Whatever we do they're prepared." On a typical of searching for lad nothing turns up. [Source: Peter White, National Geographic, January 1989]

After anti-drug units began using ground and air-based American radar systems that were able to detect and track planes and jet fighters were given permission to shoot down planes that failed to identify themselves, drug traffickers were forced to change their smuggling strategies such as moving more cocaine overland through Brazil and Central America. Manuals found in the possession of the Cali cartel explained how planes could avoid detection by refueling in-flight and having removable markings. They listed radio frequencies not monitored by authorities and noted areas where radar detection was weak.

After air routes between Colombian and Peru, Bolivia and Mexico were disrupted, raw cocaine was shipped from Peru, Colombia and Bolivia to cocaine labs in the Colombian Amazon by boats or by short, low-altitude flights above the rain forest canopy. To avoid trouble the cocaine-laden planes stayed far away from government bases and flew along the borders between Peru, Colombia and Brazil because the air forces in these countries are not allowed to enter the air space of the other countries. To avoid detection planes with a range of 8,000 miles, flying between Colombia and Mexico, fly west from Colombia over the Pacific and then fly back east to Mexico.

One result of the anti-drug campaign was that flying cocaine got to be so risky that the rates for flying shipments doubled to $80,000. Cocaine inventories in producer countries rose and prices given coca farmers fell by 80 percent from $60 for a 26.5 pound sack to $5 a sack. In 1994 the program was suddenly dropped out of fear of "liability suits from families of traffickers shot down by a air forces American-supplied information." After the program was suspended Peruvian and Colombian drug officials said the number of drugs increased.

Even with all the fancy technology most seizures are made through sheer luck of with information from informants and trained agents on the ground. Through the period demand for cocaine in the United States remained constant at about 300 tons a year. Declines in drug use in the United States have been primarily the work of education and local drug programs. The United States has difficulty promoting free trade and clamping down on drug smuggling at the same time.

Most coca growers don't see themselves as the problem but rather the cocaine consumers in the United States as problem. The Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez told Newsweek: "The United States is the biggest consumer of drugs in the world. Production doesn't stimulate consumption — consumption stimulates production. I believe that what the United States is waging is a war of markets." "Again and again I heard the same story," Jere Van Dyk wrote in National Geographic, "American demanded that people stop cutting the rain forest. Americans demanding timber. Americans demanded that people stop growing coca. American demanding cocaine.”

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons; DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) except Hello Kitty from xorsyst blog

Text Sources: “Buzzed, the Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy” by Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., Scott Swartzwelder Ph.D., Wilkie Wilson Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center (W.W. Norton, New York, 2003); National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, The Independent, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2022

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