More Drugs Flow Into U.S. Than Estimated 

More Drugs Flow Into U.S. Than Estimated 
Posted by FoM on November 14, 1999 at 09:52:19 PT
By Eric Ichtblau & Ester Schrader
Source: LA Times
Government authorities believe that they have badly underestimated the flow of cocaine out of Colombia and other drug-producing nations, a realization that casts doubt on years of basic assumptions behind the war on drugs. 
Drug-intelligence officials are particularly alarmed over their discovery of a new high-yield variety of coca being grown and processed in Colombia, the No. 1 supplier of cocaine to the United States.   That, together with a growing acknowledgment that their methods for measuring narcotics production may be seriously flawed, means that government estimates of global drug trafficking are likely to "skyrocket" early next year, said officials in the drug-intelligence community.   Estimates of cocaine production in Colombia alone could triple, two government sources said. "It's going to be big," said one senior law-enforcement official who asked not to be identified.   The revised estimates, combined with a soon-to-be-released plan for countering lax coordination among the various drug-intelligence agencies, are likely to alter U.S. tactics in the $17.8-billion drug war for years to come, sources said.   Key policymakers said that the estimates of worldwide drug production, while imprecise, are critical in allocating drug-interdiction resources, plotting strategy and influencing diplomatic relations with drug-producing nations.   "The policymaker ought to have correct estimates of how [drugs are flowing], patterns, where, when, so that you're not buying a bunch of Coast Guard cutters to go to the Eastern Caribbean if most of your smuggling is on maritime craft in the Eastern Pacific," Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in an interview.   Yet the new numbers jeopardize McCaffrey's ambitious goals for cutting narcotics supplies to the United States some 25% by 2002 and 50% by 2007. Some critics of U.S. policy are already demanding an end to the nation's war on drugs. News of higher cocaine and heroin production, as well as an explosion in border confiscations of the designer drug Ecstasy, could bolster their arguments that current anti-drug strategies are failing.   Authorities have been working quietly for several years to devise a better way to track the global flow of drugs, combining their long-used satellite photos of crop fields with new, more precise analyses of how poppy, coca and other crops are processed into drugs for street sale.   But embarrassing shortcomings in the system became apparent last month after U.S. and Colombian authorities broke up a major Latin American cocaine ring. The volume of cocaine that they now believe the "Juvenal" network was bringing into the United States--up to 30 metric tons a month--rivaled previous estimates of all cartel imports combined, officials said.   "There was just amazement that one organization would have the ability to distribute that much cocaine a month," a law-enforcement official said. "The whole Juvenal thing really just illustrates why we have to get our act together in terms of reconciling these numbers."   Indeed, even before final estimates are made next year, government officials say they already have begun trying to assess what they mean.   Some government officials believe that Latin American traffickers are sending more cocaine to Europe than ever. Others think that growers are stockpiling large supplies of the drug. Still others suggest that U.S. residents are consuming more cocaine than previously feared.   But outside observers such as Mark A.R. Kleiman, director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at UCLA, say that the estimates are little more than guesswork used by the administration to hit up Congress for more money. And they point to extensive surveys, emergency room admissions and other data showing a decline in drug use in the United States.   "More cocaine in the U.S.? Hard to believe," Kleiman said. "Where are all the corpses?"   The scramble to get a better handle on worldwide drug flow comes at a particularly critical time in U.S. relations with Colombia.   Anti-government rebels who control much of the narcotics trade have gained strength in recent months, and Clinton administration officials argue that only a major new infusion of cash to the Colombian government--as much as $1.5 billion--can stop them.   So far, the administration has been timid about pushing the proposal on Capitol Hill, preoccupied with negotiations on higher-priority issues. But the expected jump in the estimated flow of Colombian cocaine could move the aid request to the front burner.   "Clearly, if you look at the new numbers, we have to change our way of doing business. We have to make a better argument for getting the Colombians more help," said a senior administration official who asked not to be identified.   In Colombia, which produces 70% of the world's cocaine, a combination of factors has scuttled the numbers that U.S. government officials have used to shape anti-drug policy.   Cocaine producers there have developed an insidious variety of coca, but U.S. intelligence agents have limited access to a key drug-growing region, which is controlled by the anti-government guerrillas. This has contributed to U.S. authorities' flawed understanding of the region's growth and processing methods.   For years, intelligence officials said, most of the coca grown in Colombia was of a variety, ipadu, whose leaves yield relatively small amounts of cocaine. A higher-yield variety, E. coca coca, is grown in Peru and Bolivia and sent to Colombia for processing and export.   So when satellite photos of Colombia taken late last year showed acre upon acre of new fields of coca, U.S. intelligence officials assumed that the Colombians were growing the same low-yield coca plants they long have cultivated, and they estimated that 165 metric tons of potential cocaine were produced in Colombia.   But recent forays inside Colombia's cocaine-producing regions by intelligence officials revealed that the crops are a third, never-before-seen variety of coca that yields higher amounts of cocaine and takes only a year--rather than three--to cultivate.   One law enforcement official acknowledged that analysts were "a little late" in recognizing that they were dealing with something new.   "We were caught a little bit by surprise by this new brand of coca," another senior official said. "In addition, the processing is far more efficient in Colombia than it is in Bolivia and Peru, which are the countries we had been using to base our estimates on. We didn't completely understand this when we came up with the numbers."   The education has been sobering.   "They're going great guns, [and] there's a whole lot more cocaine available than we had thought to come into the U.S.," one official said.   And the problem is not limited to Colombian cocaine.   Officials in Washington said they are increasingly worried about the discovery of large poppy plantations and heroin production in Peru.   And U.S. border confiscations of Ecstasy--made mainly in illegalEuropean labs and a staple at "rave" dance parties--have soared by some 700% this year, according to Customs Service figures.   The developments also underscore the need to improve lax coordination among U.S. agencies that work to combat drugs.   With the escalation of the drug war in recent years, more agencies than ever have been gathering information on traffickers--from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI to the CIA, the State Department and others. But turf battles have plagued their efforts, said a DEA official.   Law enforcement officials tell of a notorious episode at Los Angeles International Airport a decade ago in which border agents did not realize that suspected traffickers were actually undercover DEA agents. The federal officers ended up drawing their weapons on one another. Troubling lapses continue today, officials say.   The lapses could be as simple as overseas analysts failing to let border agents know what they are hearing about traffickers using shipments of fruit from Mexico or trees from Peru to ply their trade, officials at the U.S. Customs Service said.   "We weren't getting information from south of the border," one official said.   In an effort to address the problem, administration officials hope to submit their plan for increased cooperation to the White House by the end of the year.   One part of the plan would let the Customs Service put its own intelligence officers in drug-producing countries. Customs officials sent two agents to Mexico about a month ago to test the strategy and hope to put others in Colombia.   The plan also would create a senior-level executive "secretariat," with a staff of 30, to coordinate drug intelligence among federal agencies. Some observers question adding a new layer of bureaucracy to an already top-heavy system. And they ask why McCaffrey cannot get all the agencies on the same page.   The answer, say experts who track the drug war, is money.   "These are agencies that are not used to sharing and are not used to oversight," said Coletta Youngers, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America, a policy think tank.   "But the only way to get effective authority over this would be to give this new body budget authority. That has been the fundamental problem with Barry McCaffrey's office. . . . He does not control the purse strings." Sunday, November 14, 1999 Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times Related Articles:U.S. Steps Up Drug War in Colombia - 11/13/99's Against The Us Drug War? - 11/13/99 Vows To Get More Anti-Drug Aid to Colombia-11/10/99 Nations To Coordinate Drug War - 11/05/99 
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Comment #6 posted by mikerowlet on January 30, 2001 at 20:59:15 PT:
Ignorance about the Colombian War is Rampant
FoM said:>The more I find about the war in Columbia the more aware I am becoming of its impact.I respond:You should become aware of the correct spelling of the country you have learned so much about: ColombiaThe consumers, in the United States, of narcotics are fueling a war on a people who grow poppies and coca to make a living. We create the warMy response:This war started 40 years ago by a Colombian and had nothing to do with the US. and our country makes the money"Our country" is not making money on the illicit drug trade. The criminals are, starting with the Colombian drug lords, the rebels, and the paramilitaries, then the US criminals. Our country PAYS huge amounts for the damage caused by 5 million drugs addicts, the crimes they commit, and the prisons we put them in. 80% of those drugs are grown in Colombia.and the people of Columbia cry for their slain family members and the rich get richer here, in the states, and keep their money in big companies that profit by war by making hightech helicopters, guns and all the implements of destruction.The family members are slain by rebels and paramilitaries, not US corporations. You comments are typical of liberals in this country. Building scenarios with little or no credible information. It is an ignorant but childish point of view.BTW, recent polls show that 60% of the Colombian people would like the US to invade Colombia, so that their families will not die anymore.
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Comment #5 posted by Jeaneous on November 14, 1999 at 15:56:54 PT:
Another McCaffrey Manipulation
This seems to me to be the perfect way for McCaffrey to get all the dollars he has been trying to get. He can't get it through with the stats the way they are... so change the stats.Another one of his military approaches. Anything to get his will implemented. A very scary man.Rainbow... I agree with you. I worry how our children will be able to continue to live a free life in this country seeing the direction it's leaders are taking. Do like I do.. teach them the truth. I want my kids to be willing to stand up for their own freedoms once they become the "leaders".
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Comment #4 posted by observer on November 14, 1999 at 13:21:28 PT
same old thing / expecting a different result
If history is any guide, the availability of hard drugs may slightly decrease, the price will slightly increase, temporarly. Then the supply of those hard drugs will increase, the price will drop, and more cocaine and heroin than ever before will flood the country.''Insanity is doing the same old thing over and over again and expecting a different result.'' -- Bill Clinton, campaign debate, October 11, 1992''Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.''-- George Santayana, "The Life of Reason" ``DEA Success Update: Let's see. After 20 years of relentless federal Drug War activity, while the price of world-class marijuana has gone from $60 an ounce to $450, the price of quality cocaine has plummeted from $125 a gram to $30, and 30%-pure heroin has dropped from $700 a gram to about $100. Way to go, boys!''-- High Times, April 1995
get active in opposing this insanity!
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on November 14, 1999 at 12:47:18 PT
This Is Another Vietnam But Worse!
The more I find about the war in Columbia the more aware I am becoming of its impact. This is worse, in the respect, than in Vietnam. The people of the United States thought Vietnam was a freedom issue and it wasn't like the war in Columbia. The consumers, in the United States, of narcotics are fueling a war on a people who grow poppies and coca to make a living. We create the war and our country makes the money and the people of Columbia cry for their slain family members and the rich get richer here, in the states, and keep their money in big companies that profit by war by making high tech helicopters, guns and all the implements of destruction.
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Comment #2 posted by rainbow on November 14, 1999 at 12:46:46 PT:
What higher yields
They lie when they know the facts, they lie when they don't know the facts, they lie when there are no facts. And they plain lie. It is really biting them now because more people are going to just get fed up with them.They are using the same arguement that they haved used against marijuana. More potent strains, quicker to yield so we need more money to kill.Our government is some bad. I am really getting concerned about my daughters futures with lunatics in the goverrnment who are our "leaders??"cheersRainbow
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on November 14, 1999 at 12:12:20 PT
More money... for for failures?
So, the Drug Warriors are astonished at the volume of heavy stuff coming into the US? They fear they have been massively underestimating the actual quantities? And they want carte blanche in the budgeting department to fight an even bigger war? Why am I not surprised...They have said nearly every word indicative of a condition without naming the condition, itself; defeat. They have been figuratively, as well as literally, 'snowed under'. And now they want even more money to buy more thumbs to stick in more holes in more levees about to burst from the market pressures of the drug trade?Even the densest of True Believers must have some doubts, now. Even the most rabid of Drug Warriors must know the jig is up; there's just too much high grade, cheap junk out there now to ever stop it. The very things the Drug Warriors have tried to stem the flow of the hard stuff into the US has had exactly the opposite effect. This economic jiu-jitsu is something this country can no longer afford.Just like the fable of Br'er Bear and the Tar-Baby, we've gotten hopelessly stuck on this Children's Crusade of a Drug Free America. All we have to show for it is a tattered Constitution and a Bill of Rights that has been abrogated by police and judges so often it is hardly worth the hemp(!) it is written on.All you narcs out there reading this: you know you can't keep this up. You've known that *before* this latest revelation. And now, the official tab...and for you, the butcher's bill... has just gone way up. Still think it is worth your sanity and your lives when there are still fools who will put that trash up their noses or in their veins?More money? For more failures? It's time to think about alternatives. Time to talk about alternatives without fear of being castigated as being soft on the subject. Time to actually do something constructive.
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