This week in illegal narcotics
Three former presidents from Latin America wrote “The War on Drugs Is a Failure” in a Wall Street Journal opinion column. Their counter-proposal to the war on drugs included a paradigm shift in current drug policy based on three principles: “Reduce the harm caused by drugs, decrease drug consumption through education, and aggressively combat organized crime.”
The three former presidents of Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico stated:
Prohibitionist policies based on eradication, interdiction and criminalization of consumption simply haven’t worked. Violence and the organized crime associated with the narcotics trade remain critical problems in our countries. Latin America remains the world’s largest exporter of cocaine and cannabis, and is fast becoming a major supplier of opium and heroin. Today, we are further than ever from the goal of eradicating drugs.
Over 300 La Familia cartel members were arrested in two days as part of operation “Project Coronado.” The operation included coordination between over 3,000 law enforcement agents from the U.S. and Mexico. During the two-day operation, $3.4 million was seized in U.S. currency, alongside 729 pounds of methamphetamine, 62 kilograms of cocaine, 967 pounds of marijuana, 144 weapons and 109 vehicles.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates the Taliban earned 90-160 million dollars a year from taxing and smuggling illegal opium and heroin between 2005 and 2009. This amount was double what they earned while in control of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on the Taliban’s diversified financial portfolio, which includes revenues from the illegal drug industry, kidnapping and extortion, and financial backing from outside financiers.
From the NY Times, reporter Eric Schmitt writes:
Counterterrorism experts say the relationship of the insurgents to drug trafficking is shifting in an ominous direction. A United Nations report issued in August said that some opium-trafficking guerrillas had secretly stockpiled more than 10,000 tons of illegal opium — worth billions of dollars and enough to satisfy at least two years of world demand. The large stockpiles could bolster the insurgency’s war chest and further undercut the ability of NATO military operations to curb the flow of drug money to the Taliban.
Back to Latin America, Competition is fierce in Rio de Janeiro’s drug trade. According to the Economist, Rio’s three big drug dealing organizations split total annual profits of only BRL$27 million (USD $15 million). In contrast to Brazil’s typically inequitable economy, the wage structure of Rio’s organized drug-criminal enterprises “appear to be surprisingly flat,” meaning a greater percentage of the profits is distributed more evenly throughout the production chain. The Economist reports “far from living like characters in an MTV hip-hop video, Rio’s dealers are operating at ‘close to break-even.'”