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Colombian Cocaine Trade

Cocaine is produced from the Coca plants usually found in the mountain climates of Colombia. The first cocaine alkaloid was not achieved until 1855. The cocaine alkaloid was first isolated by a German Chemist Friedrick Gaedcke. Cocaine was first used in the 1880’s as an anesthetic in eye, nose, and throat surgeries because of its capability to provide anesthesia as well as to constrict blood vessels and limit bleeding. Its therapeutic applications are obsolete in this day and age because of the technological advances to produce safer drugs . Cocaine is the most devastating and potent stimulant of the natural realm.

In this paper I will be discussing the history of cocaine, the impact in the world, and lastly the War on Drugs. Dating back thousands of years the South American Indigenous people have chewed the coca leaf. The leaf contains important nutrients and can be life saving to a person who hasn’t eaten for days. When the Spaniards conquered South America they discovered that the claims of the leaf being nutritious were true and started taxing 10% of the value of the crop . The taxes actually became the main source of support for the Roman Catholic Church in the region.

In 1999, Colombia remained the world’s leading producer of cocaine. Three quarters of the world’s annual yield of cocaine is produced there. In the year 2000, Columbia still remains the world’s leading producer of the drug . The coca cultivation that goes on in the Andean jungle is damaging the health of the environment in the region. The main threats to the environment are deforestation caused by clearing the fields for cultivation, soil erosion caused by several factors, and chemical pollution from insecticides and fertilizers.

The process of mixing coca and poppy into cocaine and heroine has devastating effects on the environment as well. These environmental issues are difficult to address due to coca being a traditional crop and trade item, the influence and wealth of the drug traffickers opposing restrictions, and the issue of national sovereignty. Most realize the social impact of the drug trade worldwide, but few realize the environmental impact. The natives who used to live on eating the fish from the rivers no longer are able to find any edible fish.

Pollution is one of the biggest factors in the environmental issues involved with the coca cultivation. Some of the pesticides used by the farmers travel through the soil into the ground effecting the water, and eventually making its way into the rivers and streams. The pesticides are not only poisonous to the insects and larger animals, but also to the people who live on the land. Another item that plays a big role in the pollution is the fertilizer used by the farmers, and that also enters the water systems. Not to mention it also destroys all of the other sensitive vegetation in the area.

Once the fertilizer enters the water it makes the algae grow at increased rates while killing the organisms that feed on it. The final result is the algae overwhelming the other aquatic plants and life, while restricting water flow. At the rate the forests are being depleted over one third of Colombia’s Total forest will be gone in about five years. Much of the land is abandoned after only two or three seasons of coca cultivating. Most of the wild life is gone also due to the lack of clean waters and plant life.

The deforestation caused by coca and poppy producers and non-existent soil conservation techniques they practice have led several experts to theorize that the region could end up in a situation similar to that of Ethiopia or Somalia within 50 years, i. e. a fast growing population that is larger than the food production can support due to poor agricultural soils or techniques. The trafficking of cocaine in Colombia also plays a big role in the lives of the indigenous people who live in the Andeans where the Coca is harvested.

The guerillas that imperialize on the indigenous peoples land ultimately bring disputes, health problems and social disorder to the pueblos in the Andeans. They are also faced with legal problems because the government charges them with the responsibility when crops are found or discovered. Aerial spraying of fumigants damage the indigenous people’s crops even when not forced to be involved with the growth of coca. Many small communities have been forced to leave their home and flee to urban areas or in severe cases flee to Ecuador.

The U. S. claims that they only target large scale coca growth but there are publications that many 1 to 3 hectare farms have been hit. These communities represent the diversity in Andeans and spraying the fumigants on their lands will cause the demise of the indigenous people there. Cocaine shipments from South America transported through Mexico or Central America are generally moved overland or by air to staging sites in northern Mexico. The cocaine is then broken down into smaller loads for smuggling across the U. S. , Mexico border.

The primary cocaine points for entering in the United States are in Arizona, southern California, southern Florida, and Texas. Usually land vehicles are driven across the Southwest Border. Colombian traffickers have also started using a new concealment method where they add chemical compounds to cocaine hydrochloride to produce “black cocaine. ” The cocaine in this substance is not detected by standard chemical tests or drug-sniffing canines. Cocaine traffickers from Colombia have also established a labyrinth of smuggling routes throughout the Caribbean, the Bahamas Island chain, and South Florida.

Methods of trafficking include airdrops of 500-700 kilograms in the Bahamas Islands or off the coast of Puerto Rico, mid ocean boat-to-boat transfers of 500-2,000 kilograms, and the commercial shipment of multi tons of cocaine through the port of Miami and to the Islands in the Caribbean. These vessels are typically 150 to 250 foot coastal freighters that carry an average cocaine load of approximately 2. 5 metric tons. The illegal drug market is quite lucrative. The estimated revenue of the illegal substance market reaches $300 to $400 billion worldwide.

Between 1989 and 1998, American users spent $39 billion to $77 billion yearly on cocaine and $10 billion to $22 billion yearly on heroin. To arrive at these estimates, the numbers of users were multiplied by their typical expenditures, and then converted the resulting estimates to 1998-dollar equivalents. Most of the downward trend results from changes in the consumer price index. ” These high profits attract individuals who are ruthless, immoral and pursue profits at any and all costs. Fighting drugs in the US is a difficult battle to win.

Drug movement can be facilitated by air, sea or land travel. According to the US Enforcement Agency there are 60 million people who enter the US annually by air travel, 6 million people by sea and 370 million people by land. Annually, there are as many as 116 million human border crossings into the US from Canada and Mexico. By sea, up to 90,000 ships dock at US ports yearly, carrying more than 9 million ship containers that carry more than 400 million tons of cargo. This makes policing people and cargo for illicit drugs very difficult.

With this kind of activity, it is no wonder why the war on drugs is never easy to win. The US employs the services of many agencies to help win the war against illicit drugs. The US Drug Enforcement Administration’s mandate is to enforce the laws against drug production, distribution and consumption through the criminal and civil courts. They also partner with international organizations such as INTERPOL, lending resources and cooperation in the global fight against drugs. The DEA has a force of 10,565 employees in 2004 and has been given a budget large enough to increase this agent force by 2005.

One of its most recent major victories are the Operation Candy Box which saw the arrest, confiscation and dismantling of a major ecstasy and marijuana production ring operating within Canada for distribution to US cities. Another victory is the discovery and dismantling of a massive International ring that was responsible for laundering millions of Colombian drug money in the US, Canada and UK through the Colombian black market Peso exchange system. In 2003 alone, the DEA made over 10,518 cocaine related arrests which was 38. 7% of the total arrest made by the agency.

There is major effort to put a stop to Colombian drug trade, by the United States. The FBI, CIA, DEA, and special militarized units are given supplied to Colombia by the United States. This has definitely made a huge impact in all levels of cocaine distribution in Colombia. It also has raised the percentage of total interceptions of cocaine to 13%. The United States also plays part training the local Colombian law enforcement in the art of unconventional warfare. This ultimately led to one death of one of the biggest drug lords in Colombia. The top drug lord in the history of Colombia was named Pablo Escobar.

Escobar was born in 1949 to a teacher and a peasant. Escobar started his legacy of being a notorious ruthless cocaine distributor in the 1970’s. By the 1980’s Escobar’s cartel was responsible for over 80% of the worlds cocaine productivity. Between 1984 & 1987, fifteen judges and numerous other governmental figures were assassinated in streets of Medellin. By 1993 credited with killing more than 200 judges, an attorney general, three presidential candidates, estimated 1000 police officers, dozens of journalists, and thirty kidnappings. Escobar’s killing in December 1993 ended a long terror campaign that shook Colombia to its core.

The drug lord’s gang set off bombs, downed an airliner and killed dozens of police officers and officials to coerce the government to not extradite drug suspects to the United States. The United States for some time has been helping Columbia with military aid, including training and intelligence gathering. Special units from the military, CIA, FBI, DEA, and half dozen other agencies, in conjunction special units of the Columbian police , were all responsible for the take down of Pablo Escobar and friends. This was also labeled one of the greatest take downs in the history of Colombia.

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