Cocaine Chemicals Unregulated 

Cocaine Chemicals Unregulated 
Posted by FoM on November 22, 2000 at 07:44:52 PT
Knight Ridder Newspapers 
Source: Lawrence Journal-World
Although the Clinton administration has declared a risky and controversial $1.3 billion war against Latin America's cocaine trade, it isn't fighting on what may be the easiest and most promising front.The administration is providing massive military and other aid to help Colombia and other Andean nations stop coca growing, processing and trafficking, but experts say the chemicals needed to refine cocaine from coca leaves continue to flow unhindered to drug labs. Each country involved blames another for the problem.
"I don't remember in the past decade a systematic and massive campaign in South America to control precursors," said Roger Rumrill, a Peru-based expert in Andean narcotics production. "This is a contraband product, and many people are involved, ranging from businessmen to the government  including police."In theory, it's much easier to interdict shipments of the chemicals used to make cocaine than it is to ferret out cocaine smuggling. The companies that make the chemicals, known as precursors, are well-known. The precursors are usually shipped by land or sea, and their bulk and modest value make it hard to hide them.So why not declare war on 55-gallon drums of sulfuric acid, acetone, potassium permanganate and other chemicals chugging up the Amazon?Not so fast. Global free-trade rules permit little regulation of chemicals that have legitimate uses. The same chemicals that are used to refine cocaine have many legitimate uses, including water purification, so shipments can't be seized unless authorities have reason to believe they're intended for use in making cocaine.The United States has asked South American countries to document who is using these chemicals. The effort to track precursors hasn't been disciplined, however, and seizures remain meager, despite years of encouragement by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the State Department.U.S. anti-drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey acknowledged in an interview that effective measures to keep precursor chemicals out of the hands of cocaine producers "ain't there yet."As proof the initiative "has been a failure," McCaffrey noted that Colombia produced 520 metric tons of cocaine last year.Manaus, BrazilSource: Lawrence Journal-World (KS) Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2000 Copyright: 2000 The Lawrence Journal-World Contact: agardner Address: P.O Box 888, Lawrence, Kansas 66044 Website: Related Articles:US & Colombian Officials Closely Monitor Chemicals
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