Underestimate of Cocaine Flow Impairs War On Drugs

Underestimate of Cocaine Flow Impairs War On Drugs
Posted by FoM on November 20, 1999 at 19:00:00 PT
By Eric Lichtblau & Esther Schrader, LA Times
Source: Star Tribune
Government authorities believe that they have badly underestimated the flow of cocaine from Colombia and other drug-producing nations, a realization that casts doubt on years of basic assumptions behind the war on drugs.
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 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 drug war for years to come, sources said.Key policy-makers 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 McCaffrey, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in an interview.Shortcomings: Authorities have been working 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."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 Kleiman, director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, 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.A New Variety: In Colombia, which produces 70 percent 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 that 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.Pubdate: November 21, 1999 Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times Related Articles:More Drugs Flow Into U.S. Than Estimated - 11/14/99 Steps Up Drug War in Colombia - 11/13/99's Against The Us Drug War? - 11/13/99
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Comment #5 posted by Frustrated on November 22, 1999 at 17:46:06 PT
RE to kaptinemo and others...
Many thanks again for your very informed comments. Up until about 4 years ago i was a very blissful american citizen minding my own business and going to school (ignorance is bliss ya know). Then i bought a High Times and became very scared about what country i lived in and what exactly was going on. I don't trust our government one bit, and i'm sure there are many very dirty pieces of laundry still undiscovered that various gov't agencies have left lying around in dark corners. Some things i really DON'T want to know. However, just because i'm scared to acknowledge how Nazi-esque our gov't is now doesn't mean that atrocities committed in the name of the War On Drugs (or War Against Citizens for Reasons of Political Control) will disappear. Scott and Kaptinemo make excellent points---we must all look at the bigger picture here and always be ready to question the motives of various gov't agencies like the DEA, CIA, FBI, ATF, etc. They are not under our (voters) direct control-------and heck, politicians are at least SUPPOSED to be accountable to the voting public, but we see where that's gotten us today. WE MUST EDUCATE OURSELVES---READ EVERYTHING YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON ABOUT ISSUES YOU ARE CONCERNED WITH---even if the opinion doesn't agree with yours, you will have an idea of how the other side thinks. Look at DARE (barf!) and Partnership For a Drug-Free America (yeah right)---at least we know what we're up against here. So, keep talking to your friends and point out the things you find wrong with our present government, then get all your friends to register and VOTE against all this BS. It is the only way we have a chance to really change things--and if enough people do it, then (hopefully) the message will be heard. Good Luck Everyone!!  Let's do what we can!!!
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on November 22, 1999 at 16:22:40 PT
Take Up Space
kaptinomo and everyone. Please as you put it " take up space ". That's what makes this site special and very educational. I do mean that and thanks for taking up space!
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on November 21, 1999 at 14:30:03 PT
Another point
Usually I try to take up as little space on these comments as I can, but something just struck me. Some of you may remember how the CIA inflated Soviet troop strengths, bomber and missile numbers, etc. just before Reagan came to power, so that Reagan could justify the massive military buildup - and the massive increase in the national debt which 'paid' for it. Needless to say, the CIA made out like the proverbial bandit from the budget largesse to play their little power games. Like the Iran/Contra/ Coke for guns scheme.Am I the only one feeling deja vu, here? Or are we about to be treated with another version of the 'straw-man diversion' by the ONDCP? "Oh, my God!!! The drug problem is much worse than we realized!! But we'll save you; just give us more money, and we'll eradicate the drug use problem in this country by (pick a year)."And the average American, bless his pointy little head, falls for it every time. I'd puke, but that would be a waste of a good dinner.
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on November 21, 1999 at 14:13:40 PT
An excellant point, Scott
I've been to the Netherlands four times now. I've walked the streets of Amsterdam, down the Zeedijk, all through the city, and only once saw any thing drug-related that needed police attention... a fight between two drunks. This is not to say that I had not been approached by the locals who tried to sell you hard stuff; they *were* there, but you weren't mobbed - or robbed - by them. I just signalled my disinterest and moved on; they laid off and went their own way. All quite peacable. And here's why: Contrary to some very misinformed opinions, (misinformation, or *dis* information is a common ploy of intelligence agencies...and the governments who they serve) the Dutch police are no slouches in dealing with real criminals. They are pretty tough guys who I wouldn't want on my tail if I had committed a *real* crime. No local wanted to get into a real hassle with them, so they left the tourists alone. But the screamingly obvious reason behind all this is that fact that the Dutch, having had a very bad experience with fascism some 50 years ago, decided that they weren't 'going to do it to themselves' as one Rijkspolitie officer told me. They respect individual rights so long as the individual harms no one else. And they don't consider drug use a societal harm as much as a medical problem. End of argument. Yes, we have yet to learn the kind of lesson the Nazi's taught Holland... but we are very, *very* close to it right now.
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Comment #1 posted by Scott on November 21, 1999 at 08:39:41 PT:
blah blah blah
>Government authorities believe that they have badly >underestimated the flow of cocaine from Colombia and other >drug-producing nations, a>realization that casts doubt on years of basic assumptions >behind the war on drugs. \Translation:"1.7 billion isn't enough money, well it is, but we would like more. So uh, yeah, drugs are up in America and stuff, so lets uh, take money from education and solving problems that can be solved and throw it into a lost cause...yeah, that's it."We might as well just throw all the cash into a pile and make a huge bon-fire, at least then it would serve a purpose.>"More cocaine in the U.S.? Hard to believe," Kleiman said. >"Where are all the corpses?"23 million people have used cocaine before in their lives, 4 million used cocaine in 1998, 1.5 million use once a month, .7 million use it every day. (Department of Health and Human Services, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse: Population estimates 1998, Washington DC: US Government Priting Office (1998)). So, you have an average of about 2000 deaths per year from cocaine usage, which means .0005% of all coke users end up dying from coke use. Even if 5000 people died a year from coke use, that is only .00125%. I am sure the numbers would go down if America had a policy on drugs like more "civilized" European Nations, like the Netherlands (|1|Netherlands has lower lifetime pervelance of marijauna use between ages 12-18 [38% to 21%], |2| lower heroin use per 100,000 [308 per 100,000 vs. 160 per 100,000], and |3| lower homicide rate per 100,000 [8 per 100,000 vs. 1.8 per 100,000]).Sources: 1: National Institute of Drug Abuse and Netherlands Institute of Health and Addiction. |2|: White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport [VMS]. |3|: Department of Justice and CBS Voorburg - Statistics Netherlands.It's time that Amerika pulls away the mask that hides us from the truth. Its good that newspapers like the Boston Globe, LA Times, and others are joining into the fight against the war on drugs. The truth is harder to accept then fiction, especially when fiction has been taught like its the truth.
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