Is it just me, or have you been seeing a ton of articles about drugs in Central and South America lately? One recent article, Cocaine’s Flow is Unchecked in Venezuela, held that the Venezuela government has exaggerated how well it’s doing in the drug war there. Officials have reported that they’ve raided labs and destroyed airfields, seized barrels of liquid cocaine (who knew it came in a liquid???), and confiscated planes involved in transporting the drug.
However, someone or some group (that went unmentioned) found that the situation is not as described. There are still “drug flights” transporting cocaine out of the country, and I can guess where it’s headed: the U.S. It should come as no surprise that the cocaine is actually from Colombia. In fact, a Columbian guerrilla group – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia – is very active in a “remote region” of Venezuela.
Venezuelan authorities could try and destroy the airstrip – again – but they’re not, according to the article. And although our government works with governments that include Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala, we are not friendly with Venezuela, which is probably one reason why drug traffickers can operate so freely there.
The article contributors cite the Venezuela government’s corruption as another problem, and the fact that the criminals have chosen the poorest state in which to operate is undoubtedly another factor. Even at the border with Columbia, they collect “protection money” from local businesses.
How much of a problem does cocaine from Venezuela present? According to the White House, more than 200 tons of cocaine passed through that country in 2010, which is about ¼ of the cocaine shipped from South America. Check out the aerial photo included in the article showing illicit drug flights operating out of Venezuela, collected by radar. It’s impressive.
Another article is just as depressing: Numbers Tell of Failure in Drug War. The writer found that “only 31% of Americans said they thought that the government was making much progress dealing with illegal drugs, the lowest share since 1997.” More disturbing was that compared to 10 years ago, fewer people even worry about drug abuse! That, despite the fact that about 1 in 5 inmates are in jail for drug offenses (just one sad fact). Let’s not forget that about 15 percent of [high school] seniors said they abused a prescription drug in 2011. (I don’t think anyone in the addiction and recovery community needs to be convinced of the extent of the problem.)
I have another post in mind about some people’s thoughts on legalizing all illicit drugs, but I’ll throw this out now: In the article in this post, an economist at Harvard has suggested that this action would save the U.S. $65 billion annually, “mostly by cutting public spending on enforcement as well as through reduced crime and corruption.” The article points out that “even some Latin American presidents have asked our country to consider legalizing some drugs, like marijuana.” How’s that for some food for thought?