rn: Global impact of drug wars & who profits


Jan Slakov

Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 07:47:08 -0400
From: Eric Fawcett <•••@••.•••>
Subject: sfp-167: global impact of drug wars, and who profits

This paper reports on the impact of the drug wars on the poor, mostly
black, back home in the USA, and reminds us that the poor in the majority
world are its victims, while the drug kingpins and the resource-hungry
multinational corporations make huge profits.

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Stubborn facts versus thick skulls
by Sean Gonsalves

Whoever coined the phrase "facts are stubborn things" has apparently never
come across drug war advocates - a self-righteous bunch, undeterred by
trivial matters of fact.

Let me share a few of these trivial facts with you. According to the
United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP), the illicit drug industry is
an annual market of $400 billion. That's eight percent of world trade -
higher than the exports of the automobile industry, worldwide.

Of course, the illegal drug business creates huge profits. A kilo of raw
opium in Pakistan costs about $90 on average. In America, a kilo of opium
sells for about $290,000. The UNDCP says that illicit drug profits are so
inflated that 75 percent of all drug shipments would have to be
intercepted by law enforcement agents in order to seriously reduce the
profitability of the business. Right now drug cops, internationally, only
intercept 30 percent of cocaine shipments and 10 to 15 percent of heroin

In 1969, the Nixon administration spent $65 million on the drug war. In
1982, Ronald Reagan - the patron saint of "free-market" conservatism -
increased "big government" spending on the drug war to $1.65 billion. The
"liberal" Clinton administration upped the ante to $17.1 billion in 1998.

That figure, obviously, does not include the $99 billion that the National
Institute on Drug Abuse conservatively estimates to be the economic costs
of drug abuse in America. And even though a 1994 Rand Corporation study
found that increasing drug treatment is the single most effective way to
reduce drug consumption, 60 percent of drug costs go toward drug-related
law enforcement, incarceration and crime.

What's driving all these illicit drugs in the U.S. market? The popular
misconception has the problem being one of all those baggy-jean,
bandana-wearing gang-bangers and crack-addicted, promiscuous black Jerry
Springer show guests. But according to the Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration, 74 percent of all illicit drug users are

Who's being locked up? Mostly poor blacks that see the profitable drug
industry as being their most realistic opportunity to achieve the
"American dream." According to the Justice Department, 70 percent of all
U.S. prisoners are either drug offenders or were regular users prior to
incarceration. There are now more Americans in prison than there are on
active duty in the military. Between 1990 and 1996 the number of blacks in
federal prison for violent and property crime decreased by 726. But in
that same time period, the number of blacks in federal prison actually
grew by 12, 852 in the category of drug law violations. Only 11 percent of
America's illicit drug users are African-American but my people account
for 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, according to the
Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The incarceration rate for black men in America is four times as high as
it is in South Africa. Two years ago the American Psychologist reported
that harsh measures like three-strikes-and-you're-out laws
disproportionately imprisons blacks and Hispanics, who are guilty of
little more than a history of untreated addiction and several prior
drug-related offenses.  States will absorb the staggering cost of, not
only constructing additional prisons to accommodate increasing numbers of
prisoners who will never be released, but also warehousing them into old

And let's not harbor any illusions that the drug war is about going after
smugglers and kingpins. According to the Office of National Drug Control
Policy, of the 1,506,200 arrested in 1996 for drug law violations, 75
percent (1,131,156) were for drug possession. Only 25 percent were for the
sale or manufacture of a drug.

Our aid to Colombia is alleged to have something to do with going after
drug kingpins. Right now Colombia is embroiled in a civil war. If you read
declassified documents and scholarly essays written by our military
planners, you'll find that their primary concern is using violence to
establish a nice climate for foreign investment, especially on behalf of
U.S. based corporations.

The idea that we are helping the Colombian government fight drug
trafficking would be laughable if it didn't mean death to so many
Colombian peasants who are murdered and repressed with our crucial
support. The Colombian government has the worst human rights record in the
hemisphere. And it is estimated that Colombian narcotics cartels spend
$100 million annually in bribes to Colombian officials.

Apparently drug war advocates are immune to facts. Meanwhile, the poor
abroad, and particularly the black poor here in America, are taking it on
the chin. As a former boxer, I can tell ya: a fella doesn't take it on the
chin without at some point either fighting back or getting knocked out.
Neither option is very promising when the arena is not a boxing ring.

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