War on cocaine

The potential supply of drugs is virtually unlimited; trafficking routes and points of entry into the U.S. are multitudinous; and once destroyed laboratories, drug shipments, planes, money, chemicals, and other trafficking assets can be replaced easily. Robert L. Clawson and Rensselaer W. Lee give their readers insight into cocaine trafficking, the effects of cocaine on the Andes, and what has been done to lower the amount of cocaine produced and exported. Together the authors paint a picture that the cocaine trade is here to stay and that it has not fundamentally changed since the 1980s. They are realists about the severe limitations on any element of U.S. and international strategy to control supplies of coca and cocaine in countries such as Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru.

Clawson and Lee state, Our suspicion is that the most effective counter narcotics program for the Andean nations will be ones that are designed by and implemented by governments concerned, rather than by the United States or International Aid Agencies. When the counter narcotics efforts were initially implemented they sometimes seemed successful, but the drug traffickers quickly learned how to beat the system. International counter narcotics efforts in the 1980s and 1990s have been unsuccessful in eliminating the drug cartels by extraditing, eradicating coca, or having a strong, counter trafficking effect on the supply of drugs in the Andean countries. These counter narcotics efforts are the best examples of the poor performance level of International cocaine control.

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One of the counter narcotic efforts was to eliminate the drug cartels, which were revolutionizing the production and transport of multiton loads of cocaine to foreign markets. The Medellin cartel and the Cali cartel are often remembered as two of the more dominant drug trafficking organizations in the 1980s and 1990s. The Medellin Cartel is considered to be the more violent drug organization. Followed by the less violent organization, known as the Cali cartel, which took over the cocaine trade after the Medellin cartel fell apart. Pablo Escobar was the original pioneer of the Medellin Cartel. He also was the leader of it from the mid eighties all the way till his assassination by the Medellin Search Bloc in December of 1993. Pablo Escobar and other members of the Medellin cartel successfully accomplished their political objective, which was to defeat the U.S.-Colombian extradition treaty and dominate the Colombian justice system.

The U.S. extradition treaty was important in that it allowed for Colombia to send traffickers to the United States for trial and sentencing. Colombias justice system had a difficult time prosecuting traffickers because they constantly faced the violence and ruthless domination of the Medellin cartel, so they needed the U.S. extradition treaty to prosecute traffickers and cartel leaders. Clawson and Lee state, Judges that were trying drug trafficking cases in Colombia were offered the proverbial choices-death if they convict, a bribe if they set aside the charges. Only a few of the thousands people in trouble with cocaine trafficking in Colombia were ever extradited to the U.S, making the U.S.-Colombian extradition treaty ineffective. Crushing the cartels became extremely difficult because the criminals were neither being sentenced in Colombia or sent to the U.S. to be convicted and sentenced. The extradition of Colombian citizens was banned in 1991, in Colombias newly written constitution. The Cali cartel took over cocaine exports around 1990 and they never had to deal with extradition, which had failed in Colombia in the 1980s.

A second counter narcotic effort was by the United States and many drug-producing countries to reduce cultivation of coca, by eradicating the crop. Coca can be eradicated by being uprooted by hand or aerial spraying. Eradication has taken place in Andean countries such as Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru to reduce the amount of coca that can be produced. Clawson and Lee state, The Clinton Administration drug control policy has stressed the importance of eradication. The U.S. has researched the effects of aerial spraying in Panama and the U.S. fully supports eradication in the Andean countries. The U.S. believes that eradication will result in a lower amount of coca being produced; therefore there will be less cocaine that will reach the U.S. The U.S. has offered cash aid and support to Andean countries so that they have an incentive to carry out the politically unpopular eradication program.

Eradication did not have many positive benefits on either the Andean countries or the U.S. and international countries that supported it. Clawson and Lee state, In the Upper Huallaga Valley, under a U.S. supported and funded eradication program that operated from 1983 through early 1989, seventeen thousand hectares were eliminated. Meanwhile, coca cultivation in the area increased by seventy two thousand hectares. There are large amounts of land in the Andean countries that are adequate for growing coca, which makes it difficult for eradicators. For any amount of hectares that are eradicated, there is an explosion in new plantings that usually double or triple what was originally eradicated. The farmers strongly opposed eradication, so it drove farmers away from the government and brought them closer to the guerillas. The U.S. is supporting and funding a counter narcotics effort that is once again unsuccessful. The eradication of coca in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru has had no distinct effect on traffickers or the availability of cocaine in the countries where it is exported too.

The third counter narcotic effort was counter trafficking programs that were imposed by the U.S. with cooperation and assistance from the Andean countries. These programs intended to encourage farmers to abandon coca, raise the cost of getting from coca leaf to cocaine, and interfere with the transportation and shipping of the drugs. By raising the cost of chemicals used in processing and destroying more of the processing labs, there became a lower selling price of coca leaves in the Andean countries. It was expected that this would force farmers to abandon the crop and raise the cost of getting from coca leaf to cocaine.

Clawson and Lee state, A series of U.S. military raids against Bolivian cocaine laboratories caused a major collapse in coca leaf prices in that country. Prices declined from $2.30 per kilogram to $.30 per kilogram. However a majority of the counter trafficking efforts were put towards interdicting drugs while they were being transported. The U.S. set up mobile ground radars in the Andean countries to help catch the illegal transportation of drugs. This was intended to interfere with the shipping routes of the traffickers and catch them in route. Clawson and Lee state that, the ground radars detected 600 flights and allowed Colombia to destroy twenty-seven planes on the ground as well as to raid more than 100 airstrips used by traffickers.

All though many of these counter trafficking programs seem as if they were successful, most were unsuccessful in the long run. To start out, farmers would not abandon coca as a crop unless its selling price remained low over a long period of time. The low selling price often was a short-term change and was not, the price that farmers expected to prevail over the long term. Secondly producers could work around the higher prices of chemicals and destruction of labs. If it came down to it, traffickers could use the recycling technology or substitute chemicals that can replace the original chemicals efficiently. The producers were not unintelligent people, they knew how to work around the programs that the U.S. was trying to impose on them. Traffickers could also find new routes and methods of transportation to avoid being caught.

The traffickers were willing to do whatever it would take to decrease the risk of being caught. If the traffickers know that certain routes are being watched, they merely find new safer routes. The traffickers were smarter then the U.S. ever imagined. Even with the mobile ground radars that the U.S. installed to catch traffickers in route, the counter trafficking efforts were still unsuccessful. These radars had, periodic breakdowns, and had a effective radius too small to cover the most actively used drug routes. At one point the U.S. even cut off the Andean countries from the intelligence that these radars provided them with. Clawson and Lee state, These radars became a major embarrassment to the U.S when information from them was blocked. and that the Andean countries took this, intelligence cutoff as evidence that the U.S. commitment to counter narcotics had weakened. Every one of these counter trafficking programs proved to be unsuccessful in the long run.

In conclusion, International counter narcotics efforts in the 1980s and 1990s have been unsuccessful in eliminating the drug cartels by extraditing, eradicating coca, or having a strong, counter trafficking effect on the supply of drugs in the Andean countries. Despite long standing efforts and expenditures of billions of dollars, illegal drugs are still flooding the United States. Although these efforts have resulted in some successes, they have not materially reduced the availability of drugs. A key reason for United States and International counter narcotics programs lack of success is that international drug-trafficking individuals and organizations have become sophisticated and quickly adapt to any new drug control efforts. As success is achieved in one area, the drug trafficking individuals or organizations change tactics, thwarting U.S. and International efforts. Overall the International cocaine control has been unsuccessful in its efforts to successfully control the drug trade in the Andean countries.

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