The South American Cocaine Trade

The South American cocaine trade is the stuff of movies and action novels – violent gang wars, bloody battles between police, the military and drug traffickers, prison uprisings, mafia leader executions and the ravages of addiction south of the American border has provided plenty of fodder for books and film. However, it’s also been the subject of intense public and government scrutiny as people begin to sense that the war on drugs in South America is failing – and therefore is likely to be failing around the world as well.

The effects of the South American cocaine trade are wildly far-reaching and extend beyond the violence caused by eradication and interdiction attempts. The drug war in countries like Columbia, Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela displace thousands of peasants and farmers each year, with scores dying when caught between clashes. Rick Carroll reported in an article in The Guardian how saturated South America is with cocaine-related problems:

“More than 750 industry which has forced peasants off land, triggered gang wars and perverted state institutions.” (1)

It is the perversion of South American government institutions that is most troubling, as reports of corruption are common and some government and military officials have been found to permit the cocaine trade to continue in exchange for bribes or other consideration.

While many around the world are familiar with the devastating effects of cocaine addiction caused by the vast Latin American coke trade, few are aware of the effects on local indigenous peoples in South American countries. Fumigation campaigns have been launched by military and police agencies that not only destroy coca crops, but legitimate crops as well- destroying critical food supplies and the ability of locals to farm for the food and money they need. In many cases, the coca crops are missed completely and only legitimate crops are sprayed. And while most agree that this is an issue of misidentification of crop types, there are those who suggest that this accidental destruction of non-coca crops is anything but a mistake.

Despite the efforts and aid of the world’s largest and most well-equipped military – the United States, countries like Columbia and Bolivia are still full of violence and chaos related to the drug trade. This is because traffickers and manufacturers of cocaine are constantly adapting to the efforts of law enforcement. Juan Forero discusses this in an article for NPR:

“South America’s cocaine pipeline is always adapting, particularly when the pressure is on. That pressure, applied in Colombia through an American-backed anti-drug campaign, has had an unintended effect: Colombian traffickers have set up shop in neighboring Venezuela.” (2)

Additionally, traffickers and distributors have taken drastic steps to change routes in response to eradication and interdiction efforts, creating a new route that uses Africa as a jumping-off point for distribution in Europe. American cocaine, meanwhile, still largely comes from jumping-off points in the Caribbean and direct smuggling along the border with Mexico. But the producers of these drugs have taken even more drastic steps than this. For instance, just 15 years ago most of the world’s cocaine was not originated in Columbia. Instead, the Shaffer Library of Drug Policy reported in 1996 that:

“The major Colombian drug trafficking groups continue to produce most of the world’s cocaine HCl. They import hundreds of tons of cocaine base from Peru and Bolivia, convert it into cocaine HCl at clandestine drug laboratories in Colombia, and export the illicit product to the United States and Europe.” (3) But today this is no longer how the South American cocaine trade operates, and chances are high that in 5 or 10 more years, the current roles of countries like Columbia and Venezuela will change.

But while treatment for Latin American addicts isn’t a reality for most, it can be for people living in America who are suffering from a cocaine addiction. Various programs like inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment are readily available. Call the number at the top of your screen for a free consultation on this right now. It’s completely confidential and available to you 24 hours per day. Don’t play a role in the South American cocaine trade – break free from addiction now.

(1) Carroll, Rick Cocaine production surge unleashes wave of violence in Latin America 03/09/2009 The Guardian
(2) Forero, Juan Cocaine Finds a New Latin American Home 10/22/2007
(3) Shaffer Library of Drug Policy The South American Cocaine Trade: An Industry in Transition 06/1996

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers

The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More

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