Made-for-TV Drug Fight Finds Mixed Success 

Made-for-TV Drug Fight Finds Mixed Success 
Posted by FoM on December 16, 2000 at 12:09:44 PT
By Matthew J. Rosenberg, Associated Press Writer
Source: S.F. Gate
It's a made-for-television moment in the war on drugs. Braving oppressive humidity and a somewhat wooden cast, cameraman Scott Sandman stamps about Kingston's international airport recreating the arrival of American drug fighters who link up with local police and head off to burn a marijuana field. 
``We're going to have you guys walking over from the hangar,'' he instructs the four Drug Enforcement Administration agents stationed in Jamaica. ``Walk out briskly, act natural, don't look at the camera, look serious.'' Then he turns to two agents who have just flown in, who like the others wear tiny microphones on their shirt collars. ``When we get to the plane, you two are going to open the door and come out and shake hands and whatever ... and then you'll all talk about what we're going to do today.'' What they're doing is Operation Libertador -- the DEA's latest battle in the war against narcotics trafficking. The U.S. government, shedding usual secrecy, decided to show this one off. A crew from the syndicated reality-based TV show ``Arrest and Trial'' and a few reporters have been invited to tag along for three days. The first stop, in Trinidad, went poorly for the TV folks. A series of news conference-style encounters with a Trinidadian general, a DEA agent and the U.S. ambassador yielded effusive praise for the DEA-led cooperation efforts -- but not ``the kind of visuals we can use,'' Sandman laments. Jamaica holds more promise. The first stop is the headquarters of the police narcotics unit for a meeting with U.S. Embassy staff and Jamaica's chief narcotics officer. Housed in a dilapidated cement building amid western Kingston's slums and shantytowns, the parking lot teems with people, livestock and vendors selling everything from cigarettes and gum to a diversity of drugs. The Americans slurp ice cream cones as they wait for the Jamaican chief to show up. Just a few feet away, a lanky young Rastafarian brushes long dreadlocks from his face and offers a reporter ``a little ganja,'' or marijuana. ``Me just run over there to get it,'' he says, pointing to a row of cinderblock and aluminum shanties across the street from the narcotics police. ``Good high-grade ganja,'' he promises with a smile. After a gut-churning, three-hour dash from Kingston down narrow country roads, a convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles comes to a stop behind a beat-up truck. In its open bed about two dozen ragged workers fiddle with machetes. They seem little pleased when Sandman and two reporters hop in to join them for the 10-minute ride to the marijuana field. ``Don't put my face in the camera,'' shouts Kevin Lawnmower as everyone crouches to avoid low-hanging tree branches. ``They see me on TV, and they send gunman to check me, and that's it.'' At the marijuana field, there is giddiness in the air as weed-whacking machines whine, machetes slash and flames crackle from piles of marijuana. American agents in polyester jackets emblazoned with ``DEA'' joke with local cops in plain clothes. The U.S. Embassy's new narcotics affairs officer walks about the muddy field in a khaki suit and shiny cordovan loafers. Two police officers in blue jumpsuits stand watch, bearing no badges or insignia as they tote their M-16s. The two-acre field is vanishing quickly and Sandman struggles to catch it all on tape. ``This is great stuff,'' he says, grinning. The trip isn't providing the kind of narrative that makes the best television -- there's no conflict, no heavy, no twist -- but ``we can use this footage anywhere,'' says producer Angela Heller. ``Nobody will notice if it's Jamaica or somewhere else.'' There are things the viewing audience probably won't notice. ``This ganja already been harvested,'' says Lawnmower slyly, displaying the remains of a five-foot plant whose destruction may have come a little too late. ``See -- no buds.'' The 21-year-old Lawnmower knows marijuana. He's smoked it since childhood and has been cutting it down for the anti-drug forces the last four years, ``to support my little girl and her mother.'' His monthly salary of $200 is about average in this Caribbean country of 2.6 million people. The local cops and DEA agents disagree with Lawnmower, insisting the field was just about to produce a crop worth at least $300,000. They show off bags of ready-to-smoke marijuana that they claim to have found near the field. The agents torch the bags. It smells like burning garden mulch. Source: Associated PressAuthor: Matthew J. Rosenberg, Associated Press WriterPublished: Saturday, December 16, 2000 Copyright: 2000 Associated Press CannabisNews DEA Archives
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Comment #2 posted by Dan B on December 16, 2000 at 22:01:07 PT:
This Article Painfully Captures the Truth
I hated to read about all those fields getting chopped and burned...until the punchline where we learn that the fields had already been harvested. It was quite interesting reading the denials and estimates by the DEA. Robbie's right; the DEA seriously overestimates its own worth.But I really started liking this article when I realized that my joy at the end of the article means that a staunch anti reading the article will have the opposite reaction, and maybe some of them will read it and begin to wake up from their collective propaganda-induced stupor. Freedom of the press: definitely a keeper.Dan B
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Comment #1 posted by Robbie on December 16, 2000 at 18:11:37 PT:
Could anyone not know this?
The futility of the efforts of the DEA and like minds is unmeasurable. When will they get a real job?!
DEA - Dorks Eat America
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