Portland NORML News - Wednesday, April 1, 1998

Yellow Journalism (Feature In 'Salon' Magazine About Urine Testing
In The Journalism Business Says The Fact That The Press Is Submitting
With Barely A Whimper To The Drug-Testing Juggernaut Has A Seeping,
Insidious Effect Upon Everyone's Civil Liberties)

Date: Thu, 9 Apr 1998 17:18:03 -0700
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: jwjohnson@netmagic.net (Joel W. Johnson)
Subject: MN: US: OPED: Yellow Journalism
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: "Frank S. World" 
Source: Salon Magazine
Contact: salon@salonmagazine.com
Fax: 415 882 8731
Website: http://www.salon1999.com/
Pubdate: Wed, 01 Apr 1998
Author: Carol Lloyd


Why are reporters, those vigilant guardians of constitutional freedoms,
cravenly unzipping themselves for drug testing?

Fifteen years ago if you presented your prospective employer with a plastic
cup brimming with your fresh, warm piss, chances are you might not land the
job. Now such ritual offerings of bodily fluid are not only acceptable but
practically mandatory as pre-employment drug testing spreads like a urine
stain throughout our corporate culture.

It isn't difficult to imagine why a company like Exxon -- with a disaster
like the Valdez oil spill tarnishing its history -- would institute a
strict drug-screening policy among its safety-sensitive workers. Or even a
traditional consumer company like Clorox, whose corporate culture tends to
mirror its product: all-American, old-fashioned and homogeneous. But the
fact that drug testing has become almost ubiquitous at newspapers -- those
bastions of free speech and individual rights -- is pretty damn strange.

This month the Washington Post joined the ranks of other venerable
newsrooms -- New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and
all Knight-Ridder publications, to name just a few -with its implementation
of pre-employment drug testing. "We simply wanted to support a drug-free
and alcohol-free workplace," said deputy editor Milton Coleman, explaining
that the policy had been in place for some time but that the editorial
offices had ignored it. When asked if the decision had been prompted by an
incident -- say, two editors mainlining in a bathroom stall while deadlines
flew by like hallucinations -- Coleman replied, "No. There was no
precipitating event."

Although not all newspaper officials were as enthusiastic as Coleman, many
of those surveyed by Salon gave their whole-hearted approval of the policy.
Marianne Chin, director of editorial hiring at the San Francisco Chronicle,
said the paper's two-year policy came from wanting "a drug-free workplace
to insure the safety of our employees." Jim White, editor for hiring and
development for the L.A. Times, said he has no qualms about the usefulness
or appropriateness of drug testing, adding, "It just hasn't been an issue,
and it doesn't seem to bother anybody." A moment before, however, he told
me that a few applicants had refused to take the test, citing their
principles. "But there's the assumption that they refuse because they fear
they'll fail," he explained. Perhaps that is why objections to the test are
so rare. Any protest may sully your reputation and paint you as an addict
in denial.

Coleman was careful to add that the Washington Post maintains a "very
compassionate policy" toward currently employed drug abusers and
alcoholics. "Many of our newsroom employees have formed a network of their
own and some of them have even committed journalism about their
addictions," he said.

Coleman's comments imply that the Post has left behind the era of
hard-drinking journalists for wholesome 12-step groups and first-person
confessionals. That may be true at the Post, but elsewhere many editors and
writers asserted that alcoholism is still pervasive in newsrooms. But, of
course, the whiz quiz can't screen for alcohol abuse, since booze stays in
your bloodstream for only a few hours.

Urine tests are leaky in other ways as well. Since they only detect levels
of metabolites in the body, the tests often misread over-the-counter
medication and food as illegal drugs. Ibuprofen has been known to show up
as marijuana; poppy seeds as heroin; and Nyquil as amphetamines. Coleman
assured me that individuals can inform the laboratory of any medications
that might be mistaken as drug traces, but employees who want to keep their
medical history private are out of luck. Once an employer has your urine,
moreover, many states don't have laws limiting what they can do with it.
For example, in 1988, the Washington, D.C., police admitted that they had
used drug tests to screen female employees for pregnancy without their
consent or knowledge.

With newspapers being bought out by big media conglomerates and newspaper
chains' cookie-cutter journalism taking over newsrooms, maybe it's no
surprise to see reporters becoming just another bunch of cogs in the
corporate machine. But the fact that the press is submitting with barely a
whimper to the drug-testing juggernaut has a seeping, insidious effect upon
everyone's civil liberties. When the issue of workplace screening first hit
the courts in the mid-1980s, no newspapers had drug-testing programs, and
the practice was hotly debated in the press. Lately, however, criticism
seems to have dwindled to a wee trickle, even though numerous cases are
still being litigated and both the American Civil Liberties Union and the
Newspaper Guild still argue that suspicionless drug testing constitutes an
infringement of Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches
and seizures. Drug-testing laws differ from state to state, and as of
mid-1997, only Montana, Iowa, Vermont and Rhode Island had explicit bans
against suspicionless testing.

"About seven years ago there was a lot of talk about drug-testing policy
and laws," said Jeremy Gruber, legal director of the ACLU's task force on
civil liberties in the workplace. "Since then the situation has partly
solidified, giving the employers cart blanche. But it's true, there has not
been a lot of attention to it from the press."

As director of the national office of the Newspaper Guild, Linda Foley has
been fighting against the policy of pre-employment testing (and often
losing) since 1988, when the union lost the right to bargain for job
applicants at the Minneapolis Star. "Now virtually all major newspapers do
pre-employment drug testing," Foley bemoaned. When asked if individual
journalists had filed many court cases objecting to the practice, she
hesitated. "I do get calls from people sometimes, but they rarely leave
their names," Foley said. "I suppose they're afraid they won't get hired."

John True, a lawyer who has argued several ACLU cases against
pre-employment screening, couldn't remember any cases brought by
journalists either. High school athletes? Sure. Government workers? Yes.
Even some technical writers -- but journalists? "I'm almost sure there
hasn't been one," he said.

N E X T+P A G E | Big Nurse at the New York Times

[page 2 of 2]

Slate's Michael Kinsley recently skewered the hypocrisy of the New York Times
editorial page for criticizing the state of Georgia's recent attempt to
compel political candidates to undergo drug testing, while staying quiet
about the Times' own pre-employment drug screening policy. Such glaring
contradictions between newspapers' editorial stances and corporate practices
reinforce the image of a pathetically spineless and hypocritical press:
willing to take others to task while ignoring its own stern counsel.

Little wonder then that many of the reporters and editors I contacted
declined to comment on their experience on or off the record. Don't get me
wrong -- if I truly needed (or even desperately wanted) a job, I might
sacrifice my uric acid and my Fourth Amendment rights to the cause. But to
do it and then be afraid to even talk about it? Journalists make their
livings by asking -- and sometimes hounding -others to stand up for their
rights and reveal their secrets. But when it comes to their own companies'
piss policies, journalists' lips are zipped.

"I completely caved on the issue," admitted Jim DeRogatis, Chicago
Sun-Times rock critic and one of the few journalists brave enough to
discuss his experience with pre-employment drug testing. "I'm totally
against it, but did I piss in the cup for them? You betcha."

When DeRogatis first heard about the drug test, he wondered if the
Sun-Times editors were testing the depth of his professional commitment.
"Since I'd written a book about psychedelic drugs and rock music, I thought
they would only hire me if I failed the test," he joked. He had "no reason
to worry" the first time he took the test (he was hired by the newspaper
twice), but "just in case" he drank a special detoxifying tea from the
health food store. "It turned me green," DeRogatis told me, explaining that
his candor stems in part from his assumption that the Sun-Times only cares
about drug testing insofar as it affects the paper's insurance rates. "If
there wasn't a tea, I suppose a lot more people would object to the
testing," he said. "But as it is, it's more of a formality."

A New York Times reporter who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity
recalled his pre-employment whiz quiz. He thought a colleague was joking
when he told him to start "studying for your drug test." Then his
prospective boss sat him down, told him how wonderful it was to work for
the Times and added ominously: "If you fail the drug test, you can never
work here as long as you live." Unexpectedly hired a month early, the
reporter found an excuse to bow out of the first physical to let his system
go clean, but a week later went in for his test. "You have to take off your
clothes, then this nurse follows you into the bathroom and unscrews the
handles of the sink so you can't dilute your urine. Then she stood outside
the stall listening to me," he said. "It was oddly paramilitary.

"It's pretty mind-boggling," he added. "Because there's absolutely no
relationship between me smoking marijuana on the weekend and my job

Like DeRogatis, the Times reporter also believes the paper's policy stems
from insurance company requirements. Many states have a "drug-free
workplace program" that allows participating employers to get a 5 percent
break on their workers' compensation insurance. This sounds relatively
harmless, but there's a kicker. If a journalist was injured, say, while
covering a riot at the World Cup, he would immediately be drug tested. If
the pot he smoked six weeks earlier showed up on his urine test, he would
lose his workers' compensation coverage and medical benefits.

While they tend to cower in silence, many journalists privately complain
that the pass-fail drug test is absurd at best and fascist at worst. But
Donald Lewis, president of Foley Laboratory Services in Connecticut, one of
the country's largest drug testing companies, strongly disagrees. "I'd
rather hire an alcoholic than an occasional marijuana smoker," he told me,
explaining that he learned his lesson with a pot-smoking employee at his
very own company. "He was rear-ended, then he was broad-sided, and then he
ate a two-week old pizza in the back of his car and had to have his stomach
pumped. I've seen how drugs can destroy a workplace."

Lewis estimates that drug testing is a $2 billion to $3 billion annual
business. His industry's meteoric growth in the past decade is a testament
to the political and rhetorical success of the nation's "drug war" -- a war
that has now conscripted most newsrooms in America.

"The deeper issue here is that the media has been enlisted as soldiers in
the drug war," said Jeff Cohen, executive director of the liberal media
watchdog group, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. "No one ever says anymore
that the drug war is itself a controversy with legitimate points of view on
both sides."

Indeed, the drug war has seeped into the fabric of our everyday lives, and
even journalists who do still fight for their First Amendment free speech
rights have quietly surrendered other rights. But what good is free speech,
if the only way you have access to it is by forfeiting your right to
privacy? Granted, when the Founding Fathers wrote the statute protecting
unwarranted searches and seizures, they probably were thinking grain silos,
not bladders -- but can there even be an argument about which one is the
more private place?

And the drug testing craze may be only the beginning of aggressive
workplace intrusions. In response to criticism that urine tests are
inaccurate, companies are eagerly inventing new, more precisely intrusive
products. Psychemedics Corp. in Boston holds the patent for a drug test in
which a swath of hair roughly the size of a crayon can detect drugs taken
90 days before the test. If the person is bald, he must submit body hair.
CERA, a Florida testing company, has developed the Substance Abuse Subtle
Screening Inventory, a psychological test involving sophisticated questions
designed to ferret out liars and defensive thinking. Some companies have
even begun using tests meant for mental patients that delve into the sexual
feelings and religious beliefs of the potential employee. When these
perfected drug tests begin to screen for psychological eccentricity,
independent thinking, hereditary diseases and political persuasions, then
we will need the power of the press more than ever. The question is, will
we have journalists with backbones enough for the job?

America's Drug Problem And Its Policy Of Denial (A Survey
Of The Ineffectiveness Of The US War On Some Drugs In 'Current History'
By Mathea Falco, Drug Warrior President Of Drug Strategies,
Nevertheless Concludes Law Enforcement Has A 'Critically Important Role
To Play')

Date: Sun, 03 May 1998 21:01:54 -0400
To: DrugSense News Service 
From: Richard Lake 
Subject: MN: US: America's Drug Problem and Its Policy of Denial
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: rcthevenot@pennsnet.org
Source: Current History - April issue
Pubdate: April, 1998
Contact: chistory@aol.com
FAX: 215-482-9923
Mail: Current History Inc. 4225 Main Street Philadelphia, PA 19127
Website: http://www.currenthistory.com/
Author: Mathea Falco
Note: Mathea Falco is a president of Drug Strategies, a nonprofit research
institute in Washington, D.C. The author of The Making of a Drug-Free
America: Programs that Work (New York: Times Books, 1994), she served as
assistant secretary of state for international narcotics matters from 1977
to 1981.


For almost 100 years, Americans have considered other countries the primary
source of their drug problems. When the first drug laws were adopted in the
early decades of this century, the public associated drugs with immigrant
groups and minorities: opium with Chinese laborers in the west, cocaine
with blacks, and marijuana with Mexican immigrants in the southwest. These
drugs were seen as foreign threats to the social fabric, undermining
traditional moral values and political stability. Today this link between
foreigners and illicit drugs continues to influence United States
international drug policy, prompting the government to use diplomacy,
economic assistance, coercion, and military force to try to stop drugs from
entering the country.

Americans strongly support government efforts to cut off foreign drug
supplies. More than two-thirds of the respondents in a 1997 poll by the Pew
Research Center for the People and the Press considered drug control to be
a "top priority" goal of United States foreign policy; only protecting
American jobs and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons received higher
scores. Similar views have prevailed in other surveys. A 1995 Chicago
Council on Foreign Relations nationwide poll found that 86 percent of
Americans consider "stopping the flow of drugs" one of the country's most
important foreign policy goals. The close connection in the public mind
between international initiatives and drug abuse, which is often
experienced as an intensely local problem involving families, schools, and
communities, gives this issue particular resonance in public views of
foreign policy.


America's drug habit has historically been supplied from foreign sources:
cocaine and marijuana from Latin America and the Caribbean; heroin from
Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle (Burma, Laos, and Thailand) and South
Asia's Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran). However, in
recent years a substantial percentage of illicit drug consumption in the
United States has been met by illegal domestic production. In particular,
many of the drugs gaining popularity among teenagers--marijuana,
methamphetamines, and LSD--are produced at home as well as imported.

While much of the marijuana the country uses continues to be imported
through Mexico and the Caribbean, domestic production now supplies an
estimated one-third to one-half of America's consumption. Although a
complete nationwide survey of illegal marijuana cultivation has never been
made, government officials report major cultivation areas in states as
diverse as New York, Kentucky, California, and Hawaii. Increased indoor
cultivation, which allows for more selective hybridization, has accelerated
the trend toward higher-potency marijuana. In 1996, the THC
(tetrahydrocannabinol) content of high-grade "sinsemilla" (seedless)
marijuana ranged from 12 to 24 percent, according to the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), compared to less than 2 percent THC in marijuana
cultivated in the early 1970s. Even as potency has increased, marijuana
prices, after rising during the 1980s, have in the 1990s fallen back to
levels of the early 1980s. Depending on its quality, marijuana now sells
for roughly the same as in 1982--as little as $40 per ounce, although
prices for high-quality "boutique" marijuana strains can reach $900 per

The historic view that America's drug problems are predominantly foreign in
origin is thus harder to sustain, given increasing domestic illegal drug
production, not only of marijuana, LSD, and amphetamines but also of newer
"designer" psychoactive drugs such as MDMA (known as Ecstasy). Nonetheless,
United States drug policy continues to concentrate on trying to reduce the
foreign supply of drugs, both through efforts to reduce drug cultivation in
other countries and to interdict drug traffic before it crosses America's
borders. Unfortunately, the strategy of trying to reduce United States drug
use by attacking drug supplies overseas is fundamentally flawed.


Emblematic of this focus on foreign sources is the United States
government's annual "certification" process. Imposed by Congress on the
executive branch in 1986, the concept of certification reflects a worldview
that still classifies countries into producer, consumer, and transit
categories. The intent of Congress was to put teeth into United States
efforts to compel cooperation as well as to make the president accountable
for enforcing a more vigorous international drug policy.

The certification legislation requires the president to identify annually
those countries that are "significant direct or indirect sources" of
illicit drugs "significantly affecting the United States." Inclusion on
this list, which currently comprises 30 countries, automatically triggers
certain sanctions unless the president decides to "certify" the country.
Those deemed to have fully cooperated in drug control efforts are
certified. Those deemed less cooperative are decertified, which results in
the termination of United States assistance (except for humanitarian and
drug control funds), United States opposition to multilateral development
loans for that country, and the stigma of being branded a drug-trafficking
nation. This may carry negative economic repercussions beyond the
aid-related sanctions included in the law; The Wall Street Journal reported
in August 1997 that Colombia's decertification had contributed to an
atmosphere of uncertainty, causing investors to put off new projects.

A "national interest" waiver is used to justify suspending the penalties
for a country that would otherwise have been decertified--a way to improve
performance without actually cutting off assistance. Congress has the
authority to overturn presidential decisions by passing a joint resolution
within 30 days, but has never done so.

Under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the certification process
was predictable and went largely unnoticed. Decertification was reserved
for countries like Iran and Syria, with which the United States had limited
or no relations, as well as Burma and Afghanistan, which together produce
90 percent of the world's illicit opium. Lebanon was consistently granted a
national interest waiver. In 1988 and 1989, Panama was added to the
decertification list, just before the United States intervened militarily
to remove President Manuel Noriega for his involvement in drug trafficking.

Under President Bill Clinton, certification has become more rigorous. In
1994, Nigeria, a key trafficking country and a significant source of oil
for the United States, was decertified for the first time. Also, Bolivia
and Peru, the world's largest coca producers, joined a growing list of
countries given a national interest waiver. In 1995, Colombia, a major
source of cocaine and heroin; Paraguay, a cocaine transit country; and
Pakistan, a prime producer of heroin, were added to the waiver list.

By 1996, certification had emerged as a major source of tension between the
United States and its Latin American neighbors. The administration
decertified Colombia for the first time because of alleged links between
President Ernesto Samper and the drug cartels, which were believed to have
contributed to his presidential campaign. Colombia was again decertified in
1997; Mexico, however, was certified, despite revelations of extensive
drug-related government corruption that, as some observers noted,
paralleled the situation in Colombia.

Critics both in the United States and Latin America argued that the
certification process harmed relations with Mexico and Colombia without
producing any measurable benefits. Moreover, a double standard appeared to
influence the ultimate decisions. In 1996, trade between the United States
and Colombia totaled $9 billion, while United States-Mexico trade reached
$130 billion. Additionally, Mexico shares a border with the United States,
making Mexican cooperation on a range of issues such as crime, immigration,
and environmental protection essential to Washington.

Media coverage of the certification decisions was intense, especially in
Latin America, where the decisions were widely viewed as demonstrations of
United States imperialism. The idea of being formally judged by the United
States remains objectionable to many countries. During the 1997
certification debate, the Mexican government rejected the concept of
certification, pointing out that the United States is responsible for its
own drug problem and has no right to pass unilateral judgment on other
countries when it does not also judge its own performance. Although
Congress did not overturn the administration's 1997 decision to certify
Mexico, some members of the House of Representatives have indicated that a
similar decision in 1998 will be met with stiff congressional opposition.

In practice, the consequences of decertification vary widely, depending on
a country's reliance on United States and international aid. For major
producer countries such as Burma, which is already isolated from the
international community (and subject to United States sanctions on
investment), the material consequences of decertification are virtually
zero. However, for some countries, such as Bolivia, Haiti, Laos, and
Cambodia, annual United States and multilateral bank aid amounts to a
significant proportion of their gdp, making them especially vulnerable to
the threat of decertification.

Relative vulnerability is only one part of the equation as to whether
United States pressure will affect cooperation; even more important is the
government's capacity to address illicit drug production and trafficking,
as well as the sheer scale of the problem. The degree of United States
leverage does not determine whether pressure will compel action. For
example, the United States has considerable influence over a country like
Haiti, but the Haitian government is so weak, particularly in the area of
law enforcement, that it is largely incapable of producing drug control
results, regardless of United States pressure.


What impact has certification had in its 11-year history? From the United
States perspective, the primary measure of the success of drug control
efforts overseas would be reductions in foreign opium, coca, and marijuana
cultivation as well as declining availability of foreign drug supplies
coming into the United States. Reductions would presumably lead to higher
domestic drug prices. However, worldwide opium production has doubled in
the past decade, while coca production has nearly doubled.

The price and purity of drugs in the United States market are also
traditional measures of drug control success. Reductions in supplies should
make drugs more expensive and less pure (as dealers dilute purity to
maintain profit margins). This in turn should prevent new drug use and
drive addicts to go "cold turkey" or find treatment. However, since 1981,
heroin's average retail price has fallen by more than half while its purity
now approaches 50 percent, compared to only 16 percent in 1986. During the
same period, the price of cocaine has dropped by almost half.

Administration officials point to some successes from the certification
process: increased numbers of arrests of major traffickers in Colombia
following decertification; reorganization of the antinarcotics police in
Mexico after indications of widespread corruption made decertification a
strong possibility in 1997; more vigorous efforts to reduce coca
cultivation by the Bolivian government following national interest waivers
in 1994 and 1995. However, these examples of government action that may
have been influenced by the certification process have not produced
measurable results in terms of reduced drug availability in the United
States, the ultimate goal of United States international drug control

The certification process also has negative consequences for other United
States interests. Focusing on one aspect of often complex bilateral
relations can distort the management of foreign policy. In Latin America,
where the process has been especially acrimonious, relations with half a
dozen countries are dominated by United States narcotics control concerns.
The unilateral nature of certification--where the United States passes
judgment on other countries--undermines the administration's position that
the nations of the Western Hemisphere should look to the United States as a
partner in a broader effort to establish a community of democracies.

In the past year, momentum has been building for finding alternatives to
the current certification process. Both the administration and the
Organization of American States (OAS) are exploring new multilateral
approaches to determining whether countries are fully cooperating in
international drug control efforts. Discussion of these new approaches is
on the agenda for the April 1998 Summit of the Americas meeting in
Santiago, Chile. A more comprehensive system that would include an
assessment of United States efforts along with those of other drug
producing, consuming, and transiting countries, could be administered
through an independent organization, perhaps linked to the OAS or the
United Nations. This would broaden the approach beyond its current
unilateral context as well as encourage political recognition of the global
nature of the drug problem.


The United States is the world's largest drug market in terms of revenue.
According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 22 million
Americans reported using illicit drugs at least once in 1996, while 12
million used drugs regularly (once a month or more). During the past five
years, drug use among teens, especially of marijuana, has climbed

What progress has been made in the past decade has come from reduced
demand, which has declined in the face of increasing supplies of ever
cheaper drugs. Between 1986 and 1992, marijuana and cocaine use dropped by
half, reflecting the power of health concerns and negative social attitudes
toward drugs (accelerated by the sudden cocaine overdose death of sports
star Len Bias in 1986). However, public perceptions of the dangers of drugs
have changed, and both adults and teens are more tolerant of drug use than
they were five years ago. Reversing this trend will require intensive
prevention and education efforts that build on the research of the past

Extensive studies have found that school prevention programs can reduce
drug use by half and new alcohol use by a third among young teens. These
programs, built on social-learning theory, teach children to recognize the
internal and external pressures that influence them to smoke, drink, and
use drugs. Children also learn how to resist these pressures through
role-playing in the classroom. The cost of these programs ranges from $15
to $25 per pupil, including classroom materials and teacher training.
Program results are stronger when prevention includes families, media, and
the community in a comprehensive attack on alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.
Anti-drug ads by the Partnership for a Drug Free America have intensified
negative attitudes toward illegal drugs, particularly in markets where the
ads appear frequently.

Treatment has also proved effective in reducing drug abuse and drug crime.
National studies that have followed tens of thousands of addicts through
different kinds of programs report that the single most important factor in
measuring a program's success is length of time in treatment. One-third of
those who stay in treatment longer than three months are drug-free a year
after leaving treatment. The success rate jumps to two-thirds when
treatment lasts a year or longer. Programs that provide intensive, highly
structured treatment with supportive follow-up services, such as job
training and housing referral, report even better results.

Treatment is less expensive than the alternatives. An untreated addict can
cost society an estimated $44,000 annually, compared with an average of
$19,000 for a year of residential treatment or $2,500 for an outpatient
program. A 1994 statewide study in California found that $1 invested in
alcohol and drug treatment saved taxpayers $7.14 in future costs. Drug
courts, which divert nonviolent drug offenders from prison to
court-supervised treatment, are also cost-effective. Studies report that
drug courts cut recidivism by half among treated offenders at a small
fraction of the cost of incarceration, which runs about $30,000 a year.

Treatment is also more cost-effective than supply reduction efforts.
According to a 1994 RAND Corporation study, $34 million invested in
treatment reduces cocaine use in the United States as much as $783 million
spent for foreign source country supply control programs or $366 million
spent for interdiction. Domestic enforcement produces equivalent results
for about seven times the amount invested in treatment; $246 million in
domestic enforcement reduces cocaine use as much as $34 million in treatment.


In the past decade, the government's drug control spending has more than
tripled, climbing from $4.7 billion in 1987 to $16 billion in 1997. Most of
this growth has supported domestic drug enforcement and international
interdiction, which account for more than half the total $105 billion spent
on federal drug control since 1989.

The single largest enforcement expenditure is for prisons. Increasing
prison costs stem not only from climbing drug arrests but also from
mandatory federal minimum sentences that have resulted in longer prison
stays for drug offenders. More than 1.7 million people are behind bars in
America. More than two-thirds have serious drug problems, yet intensive,
rigorous treatment is available for less than 10 percent of these
offenders. In 1997, the federal drug budget spent more for prisons than for

Although President Clinton has clearly articulated the importance of
reducing the demand for drugs in the 1997 and 1998 National Drug Control
Strategy reports, federal spending priorities have remained essentially
unchanged. Efforts to cut off supplies of drugs through interdiction and
enforcement continue to dominate the government's drug budget, accounting
for two-thirds of total spending.

Despite impressive seizures at the border, on the high seas, and in other
countries, foreign drugs are cheaper and more readily available today than
two decades ago. Domestic production of illegal drugs such as marijuana and
methamphetamines is increasing, further reducing the potential impact of
interdiction on United States drug use. United States foreign supply
reduction efforts have also caused problems of their own, especially in
Latin America, where narcotics control dominates the diplomatic agenda with
the United States. The unintended consequences of these programs have
sometimes been severe, including political unrest among peasant farmers who
rely on drug crops for their livelihood; human rights abuses as governments
try to suppress drug cultivation; increased corruption among police and
military forces; and expanding roles for the military in drug enforcement
and internal security in countries where democracy is still fragile.

Ultimately, the costs incurred--both in the United States and overseas--in
pursuing the supply-side drug strategy will not produce the promised
benefits of reduced drug availability and higher drug prices. The largest
drug profits are made within the United States at street-level sales, not
in foreign poppy or coca fields or on the high seas. The total cost of
cultivating, refining, and smuggling cocaine to the United States accounts
for less than 15 percent of domestic retail prices. Recent anecdotal
evidence from the southwestern United States suggests that smuggling costs
may have increased as a result of intensified border interdiction: Mexican
traffickers are said to be offering as much as half their cocaine shipments
in exchange for safe passage. Still, the value of drugs at that point is
only a fraction of their retail price on American streets. As one DEA
official explained, "The average drug organization can afford to lose as
much as 80 percent of its product and still be profitable."


The nation's drug control strategy should shift from a primary focus on
reducing drug supplies to reducing the demand for drugs through prevention,
education, treatment, and community anti-drug coalitions. Law enforcement
has a critically important role to play; studies indicate that street-level
enforcement is more effective in driving up drug prices and has the added
benefit of making neighborhoods safer. In the international arena, greater
emphasis should be placed on attacking the growing power of the drug
cartels that challenge the integrity of political, financial, and judicial
institutions in this country and abroad. The United States should
concentrate on efforts both to strengthen democratic governments and to
combat money laundering, drug-related corruption, and violence through
bilateral and multilateral initiatives. For too long, United States drug
policy has been driven by the need to appear "tough" on drugs, regardless
of results. The United States should leave behind the distinction between
"tough" and "soft" approaches to drug abuse and concentrate its attention,
research, and resources on determining what actually works.

Copyright (c) 1998 by Current History, Inc.

The Nature Of Drug-Trafficking Networks ('Current History'
Says Prohibitionists Fail To Understand
How The Illegal Drug Industry Operates - Police Assume
Such Groups Are Hierarchical, But They Are Networks,
Not To Be Confused With Disorganized Crime)

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 22:42:09 -0400
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
Subject: MN: The Nature of Drug-Trafficking Networks
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Steve Young
Source: Current History
Contact: chistory@aol.com
Pubdate: April 1998
Author: Phil Williams
Section: Page 154


There are many reasons why the war on drugs has failed. One of the most
important has been the inability of law enforcement efforts and military
interdiction to degrade, disrupt, or destroy the networks trafficking drugs
into the United States and Western Europe. This inability stems from a
failure to understand fully the structure of these networks and their
capacity to counter or circumvent law enforcement and military interdiction.

The predominant conception - especially in the case of cocaine trafficking
- has been of large, hierarchical, vertically integrated organizations
forming cartels and dominating the market. Government strategy has targeted
the leaders of these organizations, the so-called kingpins. But although
the leaderships of both the Medellin and Cali cartels have been
"decapitated," it has had only a limited impact on the flow of drugs to the
United States. Critics of supply reduction efforts claim that this is not
surprising: interfering directly or indirectly with the supply of drugs
serves merely to raise prices, which in turn makes the market more
attractive and encourages new suppliers.

The argument here is not intended to challenge the idea that the market
contains self-adjusting mechanisms of this kind. It does suggest that this
does not tell the whole story A large part of the supply reduction failure
can be understood in terms of the organizational superiority of
drug-trafficking supply networks over the more traditional bureaucratic
organizations that dominate interdiction and law enforcement efforts.

In recent years many business analysts and management consultants have
emphasized that networks are far superior to traditional hierarchies in
terms of organizational effectiveness, especially when it comes to
innovation and teamwork. But what licit business appears to be discovering
is something that has long been known to criminal organizations, which have
been at the forefront in embracing network structures. This is hardly
surprising since network structures are resistant to disruption and have a
degree of resilience that other forms of organization lack. By using
networks, transnational criminal enterprises and drug-trafficking
organizations also enjoy enormous flexibility and are able to respond
rapidly to new strategies or innovative techniques developed by law

Ironically this reliance on networks is something many observers of
criminal organizations have generally ignored. There is a tendency in law
enforcement circles and among some academic analysts to treat centralized
hierarchies as synonymous with organized crime and to treat networks as
disorganized crime. This is a mistake. A network is a highly sophisticated
organizational form. David Ronfeldt of the RAND Corporation has argued that
society has gone through a long evolutionary process that has been
dominated successively by tribes, hierarchies, and markets. In each case
the new form of organization did not replace the previous one but surpassed
it in effectiveness and efficiency Ronfeldt argues that society is now at a
fourth stage in which networks are emerging as the predominant
organizational form, a form that has significant advantages over more
traditional bureaucratic hierarchies.[1]

If this is the case, law enforcement and military agencies engaged in
supply reduction need to recognize network characteristics and modify their
strategy accordingly. While such an adjustment would not guarantee total
success in the war on drugs, it could help level the playing field.

WHAT IS A NETWORK? A network can be understood as a series of connected
nodes. The nodes can be individuals, organizations, firms, or even
computers, but the critical element is that there are significant linkages
among them. Networks can vary in size, shape, membership, cohesion, and
purpose. They can be large or all, local or global, cohesive or diffuse,
centrally directed or highly decentralized, purposeful or directionless. A
network can be narrowly focused one goal or broadly oriented toward many
goals, and its membership can be exclusive or encompassing. Networks are at
once pervasive and intangible, everywhere and nowhere. More prosaically,
they facilitate flows of information, knowledge, and communication as well
as more tangible commodities. They operate in licit as well as illicit
sectors of the economy and society. This enormous variability makes the
network concept an elusive one; at a practical level, it also makes
networks difficult combat.

The purposes of a network can vary. Networks provide a means to achieve a
variety of goals. In effect, they are neutral regarding the nature of the
goals and can be used for positive or negative ends. This discussion, of
course, is about networks that are highly functional in their own terms yet
are inimical to society at large. In the case of drug-trafficking networks
there is a common purpose, which is to ensure that drugs move from the
source countries through a variety of transshipment points to the customers
(with minimum disruption and, loss from law enforcement activity) and that
profits accrue, in varying degrees, to members of the network. The networks
provide essential links between suppliers and customers, and are critical
to the effective functioning of the market.

Still there are many gaps in our understanding of drug-trafficking
networks. The pattern of authority and direction in these networks is not
always evident, the balance between competing and cooperating networks is
not readily discernible, and the nature of information flows through them
is often elusive. Nevertheless, it is clear that networks have several
characteristics that make it difficult for law enforcement to combat them


A drug-trafficking network of any substantial size will have
both a core and a periphery. The core is likely to consist of dense
network connections among a group of individuals or small organizations
that provide the steering mechanism and sense of direction for the
entire network. The core members will also have bonding
mechanisms that afford a high degree of trust and cohesion in their
relationships. Bonding can be achieved through a variety of means - common
ethnicity, tribal connections, family or lineage, common experience in youth
gangs or prison - but is critical to the network core. The periphery is
likely to be less dense, with somewhat looser relationships in which the
bonding mechanisms are not as strong. Peripheries of networks exhibit what
in the business literature has been termed the strength of weak
relationships, which allows the network to operate far more extensively and
with greater impact.[2] The links in the periphery of drug-trafficking
networks also seem to correspond with what Francis Ianni has called
criminal relationships: "links based upon a common core of activity in
crime that keep people working together once they have joined in a

Two-tiered networks of this kind with both core and periphery have
formidable internal defense mechanisms. While it is possible for law
enforcement to infiltrate the periphery of the network, getting to the core
is much more difficult partly because entry is dependent on a high level of
trust that is based on bonding rather than functional utility. Moreover,
there will usually be several nodes in the network that act as built-in
insulators between core and periphery; these distance the core leaders from
operations and impede law enforcement efforts to strike at the center of
gravity as opposed to nibbling around the edges. The concomitant of this is
that the periphery is where the risks from law enforcement are greatest.
Ultimately this is not too serious a problem; if parts of the periphery are
seriously infiltrated or compromised, the core can simply discard them and
recruit new members for the outer reaches of the network.

Networks display a remarkable capacity to flow around physical barriers and
across legal or geographical boundaries. They in effect transcend borders,
and are the perfect means of conducting business in a globalizing world.
While not all network organizations are transnational in scope or
ambition, there is a natural congruence between transnational or
cross-border activities and network structures, irrespective of whether the
networks operate exclusively in the legitimate sector or in supplying
illicit goods and services. In this connection, the capacity of individual
criminals or groups in one country to extend their network through linkages
with their counterparts in other countries gives organized crime and drug
trafficking a transnational character that makes it much more difficult to
combat. Criminal networks have become borderless while law enforcement
agencies are still constrained by national borders.

Their transnational character also places criminal networks in an excellent
position to exploit the global financial or global trade system. Global
trade has become so extensive that it is easy for criminal networks to
embed and conceal illicit products among licit goods. Indeed,
containerization is becoming an increasingly important mode of moving drugs
from suppliers to consumers.

Similarly the capacity of drug-trafficking networks to move the proceeds of
their activities through multiple jurisdictions complicates law
enforcement's efforts to follow the money trail with a high degree of
confidence or in a timely manner. The synergy between social networks and
technological or information networks is huge. The ability of transnational
drug-trafficking networks to exploit globalization means that in the
twenty-first century national and even regional law enforcement efforts
will become even more difficult.

Another important feature of networks is that they cross easily from the
illicit to the licit sector. Drug-traffickers can enlarge their networks to
include lawyers, doctors, and bankers to help them conceal and invest their
profits. Criminal networks can readily extend their reach, co-opting
individuals and organizations in ways that facilitate, enhance, or protect
their activities. Co-option can be achieved through bribery, coercion, and

These links are dynamic rather than static and increase in importance and
value over time. A network link between a low-level criminal and a junior
official will become much more significant as the criminal becomes more
powerful and the official becomes more senior. In these circumstances, the
exchange relationship becomes much more substantial in terms of the favors
done by the official and the payoffs provided by the criminal. The official
is not part of the criminal enterprise per se, but is a vital node in the
criminal network. As such, he or she provides important services to the
network, including critical and timely intelligence about government and
law enforcement activities. If enough people in important government
positions are corrupted and co-opted in this manner, the network can almost
certainly count on a high degree of protection against vigorous enforcement

The link between organized crime and corruption and the importance of
corruption networks in facilitating criminal activities such as drug
trafficking have been given scant attention. Yet in countries such as
Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, and Russia the linkages between criminals and
officials have become one of the most serious impediments to achieving
democratic governance and a free market economy Collusive links also exist
at lower levels, with law enforcement and customs officials accepting or
imposing bribes in return for free passage of drugs. A good example of this
is the Turkey-Iraq border where, according to one report, "drug trafficking
is always taxed, but seldom checked and never stopped. "[4] Corruption
networks, at the political and operational levels, are as insidious as they
are pervasive and make both drug trafficking and organized crime
increasingly difficult to counter.


Another important characteristic of networks is their efficiency
and effectiveness in procuring information. In the case of
drug-trafficking networks, the need is for counterintelligence
that allows the networks to anticipate and negate law enforcement
initiatives. The Cali drug-trafficking organization was especially adept at
this and used an extensive network of taxi drivers and street vendors to
gain intelligence about law enforcement activities in Cali. Extension of
the network into government and law enforcement agencies is also important
in this context, resulting in the corruption described earlier. While this
is a phenomenon that occurs primarily in supplier or transshipment
countries - and has become a predominant feature of political life Colombia
and Mexico - criminal network infiltration of law enforcement also occurs
in the United Sates. There have been numerous instances of street gang
members joining the police, thereby obtaining ready access to early warning
information that provides an opportunity for defensive actions against law
enforcement. Members of the Gangster Disciples, the Latin Kings, and the
Latin Lovers are known to have penetrated the Chicago police force, thereby
augmenting their understanding of police methods and their capacity to
detect undercover agents.

Accompanying the efficient acquisition and dissemination of certain kinds
of information is the capacity to contain and protect other types of
information. Drug-trafficking networks often operate in cellular fashion in
which information is compartmentalized or shared only on a need-to-know
basis. As a result, arrests tend to be limited to those on the periphery,
who do not yield usable connections to those in the core. Moreover,
drug-trafficking networks have tried to increase the reluctance of their
members to pass information to law enforcement authorities by their
readiness to harm the families of informants and by their willingness to
support the families of those who remain loyal and resist blandishments
such as offers of leniency in return for information.

In addition to this, many networks have two characteristics that make them
hard to penetrate ethnicity and language. Moreover, many of the networks
use languages or dialects unfamiliar to law enforcement personnel in the
host countries. Consequently electronic surveillance efforts directed
against, for example, Chinese or Nigerian drug-trafficking networks are
either neutralized or rendered much more difficult. Furthermore, ethnic
drug-trafficking networks do not exist in a vacuum but instead operate in
and from ethnic communities that provide concealment and protection as well
as an important source of new recruits. Some networks, such as Chinese
drug-trafficking groups, are based largely on ethnicity They are global in
scope and operate according to the principle of "guanxi" (notions of
reciprocal obligation), which can span generations and continents and
provides a basis for trust and cooperation. Such networks are especially
difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate. In short, drug-trafficking
networks have a significant capacity to protect their information and to
defend themselves against law enforcement initiatives.

Networks are also able to expand or contract as circumstances demand. Their
capacity for rapid reconfiguration enables them to respond quickly to law
enforcement and interdiction efforts by relocating their activities.
Networks have some fixed assets, but are able to move their operations in
ways that exploit the paths of least resistance. Most Colombian cocaine was
initially transported to the United States through the Caribbean and
Florida. When the interdiction effort in this region was increased in the
late 1980s and early 1990s, many of the trafficking networks moved to
Mexico and the southwestern border of the United States. More recently as
law enforcement and military interdiction efforts have increased on that
border, there has been a return to Florida.

Similarly on a global level, during the 1990s much greater use has been
made of African states as transshipment points for drugs destined for the
United States and Europe. According to a 1997 study by the Observatoire
Geopolitique des Drogues (Geopolitical Drug Watch) in Paris, almost 30
percent of heroin shipments seized in Europe or the United States passed
through Africa, which is an easy place for traffickers to do business. As
the group has noted, "There are plenty of under-policed air or sea
ports-like Mombasa (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Maputo
(Mozambique) - and civil wars in countries like Angola, Somalia, and
Liberia mean porous borders - where drugs can be shipped or traded with

Closely related to this, networks can respond to law enforcement profiles
of network participants by recruiting new network members to act as
couriers. Nigerian drug traffickers in particular increasingly face the
profiling problem: because many Nigerians are known to be heavily involved
in the trafficking of cocaine and heroin, they are more likely to be
stopped at airports and other points of entry and searched by customs
inspectors. Nigerian traffickers have dealt with this partly by recruiting
network members who do not fit the profile and therefore tend to make more
successful couriers. This extension of the network typically involves
recruitment of middle-aged white women, but in one case (in June 1996)
included a group of American sailors with the Sixth Fleet. In other cases,
Nigerian men have married Polish or Hungarian women and then sent them to
buy cocaine in South America. The cocaine is delivered to countries such as
the Netherlands and transferred to other women who travel to other
countries, such as Britain, where the cocaine is sold. Neither the Nigerian
connection nor the South American link is evident, and the network is
itself virtually invisible.


Networks are excellent organizations for managing risk and
limiting damage to the criminal enterprise. If the network is compromised
or degraded in some way it can alter its shape and still function. This is
achieved in part through compartmentalizing organizational activities,
disseminating knowledge on a need-to-know basis, and separating operators
and strategic managers. This makes it possible to maintain within a network
a series of safety devices that not only insulate the core but also limit

Networks are highly resilient, partly because of what might be termed loose
coupling. In his 1984 book "Normal Accidents," Charles Perrow distinguishes
between tightly coupled and loosely coupled systems. The most vulnerable
are tightly coupled systems where disturbances involve a chain reaction or,
at the very least, serious cascading effects. In contrast, "'loose coupling
gives time, resources, and alternative paths to cope with the disturbance
and limits its impact." Drug-trafficking networks, by their very nature,
involve loose coupling and can more effectively manage the risks they face.

Another crucial characteristic of networks is that they have built-in
redundancy that allows for recovery if part of the network is impaired.
Some of the literature on business networks has noted that a network, left
to its own devices, will tend to produce redundant contacts that are not
especially efficient. In the case of drug-trafficking networks, the
inefficiency associated with redundant contacts is negligible when compared
to the benefits. For networks, which almost invariably face the problems of
degradation and attack by law enforcement, redundancy is a virtue. It
provides a range of options to move the commodities to the market and to
repatriate profits, allowing the network to exploit the path of least
resistance. Even more important, it enables network members to take over
tasks and responsibilities from those who have been arrested or killed.
While there is specialization in drug-trafficking networks, roles are
rarely so specialized that substitutes cannot readily be found.
Consequently redundancy allows networks to mitigate the impact of
successful law enforcement actions. Because of this characteristic, the
network is the ideal form for maintaining organizational integrity in an
inhospitable environment.


Networks can take various forms and their members can exhibit
enormous similarities or enormous differences. A money-laundering
network in New York that was not very sophisticated in its
operations but still succeeded in laundering over $70 million for Colombian
drug-traffickers included a taxi driver, an honorary consul-general for
Bulgaria, a New York City police officer, an assistant bank manager in
Citibank, two rabbis, and a firefighter. The network transferred
drug-trafficking proceeds to a bank in Zurich, where two employees
forwarded the funds to the Caribbean account of a major Colombian drug

While some networks consist of individuals, others, according to Aaron
Hollen, consist of both individuals and organizations, including some that
might be hierarchical in character. In this connection, there is an
important difference between the cocaine and heroin networks. The
cocaine-trafficking networks operating from Medellin and Cali in Colombia
had a considerable degree of vertical integration, with a relatively small
number of organizations controlling the flow of drugs from leaf to nose. In
the case of heroin, however, there are multiple supply sources such as
Southwest Asia (especially Afghanistan and Pakistan), Southeast Asia
(especially Burma), and Colombia which, during the 1990s, has diversified
into opium poppy cultivation and heroin processing. There are also multiple
suppliers, including Chinese networks, Nigerian drug-traffickers, Turkish
groups, various Italian mafia organizations, and the smaller Colombian
drug-trafficking organizations that have effectively superseded the
Medellin and Cali cartels. Much of the heroin trade, especially in and near
the source countries, occurs through network transactions in which brokers
appear to play a major role. Moreover, many of these brokers and middlemen
(particularly the Chinese) are extensively engaged in licit as well as
illicit business. These variations in network structure and membership make
the task of law enforcement even more formidable.

Another characteristic of networks is that they can easily forge links with
one another. A network does not lack an organizational identity, but it is
not overly preoccupied with organizational form. Consequently networks can
come together when it is convenient or beneficial without this being in any
way a threat to their identity or raison d'etre. Indeed, one of the most
important trends in drug trafficking and organized crime in recent years
has been the growing connections among different criminal enterprises.
Colombian-Sicilian networks, for example, were critical in developing the
cocaine market in Western Europe. They joined Colombian suppliers with the
Sicilian mafia, which had local knowledge, well-established heroin
distribution networks, extensive bribery and corruption networks, and a
full-fledged capability to launder money.

In a similar vein, Italian and Russian criminals have forged their own
networks while Colombian and Russian criminals have been meeting in various
Caribbean islands including Aruba. The extension of influence through
networks of this kind provides new opportunities for criminals. One result
of the Colombian-Russian contacts has been increased amounts of cocaine
both imported to and transshipped through Russia. Colombian
money-laundering activities could also be extended into and through Russian
banks and companies. In this case, two powerful networks of criminal
enterprises seem to be allying for mutual advantage.

Not all connections among networks are reciprocal. Mexican drug-trafficking
families have used Hispanic street gangs in southern California for
retailing drugs and for contract killings. Indeed, the relationships
between criminal networks cover a spectrum from spot sales at the lowest
level to joint ventures and strategic alliances at the highest. In between
are a series of arrangements such as contracting out or franchising for
particular functions or roles. A recent development noted by the United
States Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, has been the
willingness of some Colombian groups to franchise smuggling and
transportation operations to Puerto Rican and Dominican groups, which then
transfer the drugs to Colombian wholesalers in the United States or retail
the drugs themselves. Extending their networks in this way allows the
Colombians to operate without going through Mexico and paying the Mexican
drug-trafficking organizations the large percentage of profits they demand.
Such an approach also minimizes the need for an extensive Colombian
presence in Puerto Rico. The critical point about networks is that they
facilitate cooperation of this kind among criminal enterprises just as they
do in the licit business world.


Networks are a highly efficient and effective organizational
structure for drug traffickers. Network organizations are
fast, flexible, and forward looking. They put function over form and are
far less concerned with neat organizational charts and jurisdictional
niceties than with their overall effectiveness in achieving their goals. In
contrast, governments are composed of and rely on large, bureaucratic
hierarchies that operate according to standard operational procedures, are
bound by budgetary constraints, and are, for the most part, cumbersome. If
governments are to make significant inroads against drug-trafficking
networks, they have to acknowledge and act on the fundamental point made by
John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt: it takes a network to defeat a
network.[5] Governments and law enforcement agencies have to think and act
much more in network terms; they need to develop the same kind of
flexibility to operate both nationally and transnationally through the
creation of informal transnational law enforcement networks based on trust
that is exhibited by drug-trafficking networks. Greater care also needs to
be given to devising strategies for more effective attacks on networks.
Such strategies need to identify both critical nodes (those where
redundancy is minimal) and critical connections - especially those to
government and the legitimate financial sector. They also need to attack
the network both externally through the removal or elimination of key nodes
and connections, and internally through such tactics as disinformation and
the creation of mistrust. While this approach does not guarantee success,
it does at least conform to the first precept of effective strategy, which
is to know your enemy and adjust your actions accordingly.

[1] See David Ronfeldt, Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks:A Framework
about Societal Evolution (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1996).

[2] Mark Granovetter, 'The Strength of Weak Ties," American Journal of
Sociology, Vol. 78 (1973). This idea is further developed in Ronald S.
Burt, Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992).

[3] Francis J.Ianni, Black Mafia: Ethnic Succession in Organized Crime (New
York: Simon and Schuster, 1974), p.281.

[4]Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues (Geopolitical Drug Watch), Annual
Report 1995-1996, September 1997 on the OGD home page (http://www.ogd.org).

[5] See John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, eds., In Athena's Cam p:
Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND,

The Political Economy Of Narco-Corruption In Mexico ('Current History'
Explains Mexico's Drug Problem Is Created Largely By Its Northern Neighbor)

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 22:38:29 -0400
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
Subject: MN: Mexico: The Political Economy
of Narco-Corruption in Mexico
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Steve Young
Source: Current History
Contact: chistory@aol.com
Pubdate: April 1998
Author: Peter Andreas
Section: Page 160


The corrupting influence of the illicit drug trade is widely perceived as
an especially extreme example of the weakness of the state in many
developing countries. Although there is obviously much truth in this view
the Mexican experience of recent years reveals a more complex and
negotiated relationship between the business of drugs and the business of
policing drugs.

In his final state of the union speech on November 1, 1994, President
Carlos Salinas de Gortari declared that "Mexico has changed intensely."
Although he lauded the establishment of a new relationship between the
state and society "and Mexico's achievement of an advantageous position in
the new international reality," Salinas failed to mention that part of
these changes has been Mexico's rising place in the illegal drug export
business. Indeed, although the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
- the crowning achievement of the Salinas administration - does not
officially include them, drug exports are an integral part of Mexico's
comparative advantage in an expanding regional trade relationship.

While Mexico has long been enmeshed in the drug trade, its role has grown
significantly in the 1990s. According to Eduardo Valle, who resigned as
personal adviser to the Mexican attorney general in May 1994 Mexico's
leading drug traffickers have become "driving forces, pillars even, of our
economic growth." The United States State Department estimates that as much
as 70 percent of the South American cocaine bound for the United States
market enters through Mexico; Mexico also supplies between 20 and 30
percent of the heroin consumed in the United States, and up to 80 percent
of the imported marijuana. (Of course, any official drug statistics
represent at best rough estimates.) In addition, Mexican traffickers now
dominate much of the American market for methamphetamines.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) believes that
Mexico earns more than $7 billion a year from the drug trade, while
Mexico's prosecutor general's office calculates that drug traffickers
operating in Mexico accumulated revenues of about $30 billion in 1994. The
drug business is a significant employer: there are roughly 200,000 people
earning a living growing drug crops (the Mexican attorney general's office
calculates that the figure may be as high as 300,000). This number does not
include the thousands of other jobs directly or indirectly generated by the
drug trade in areas such as transportation, security banking, and
communications. This underground exit option has been especially important
during a time of falling wages and limited employment prospects in the
formal economy.

Ironically Mexico's prominence in the drug trade is partly an unintended
by-product of United States policy: American law enforcement pressure on
cocaine shipments through the Caribbean and south Florida in the 1980s
helped make Mexico the primary transshipment point for Colombian cocaine
bound for the American market. While this expensive interdiction campaign
provided political rewards for United States officials eager to show
progress in the anti-drug effort, the effect of such a Maginot Line-style
enforcement strategy was to create incentives for Colombian traffickers to
shift to Mexican smuggling routes. Thus, while the percentage of cocaine
entering the American market from Mexico was negligible in the early 1980s,
by the early 1990s Mexico was the route of choice for the majority of
Colombian cocaine shipments. Perhaps not surprisingly the Bush and Clinton
administrations conveniently downplayed the profound consequences of this
geographic shift for Mexico in order to assure the smooth negotiation and
passage of NAFTA.

As drug trafficking in Mexico has expanded in the past decade, so too has
Mexican drug enforcement. Partly in an effort to pacify its northern
neighbor, Mexico tripled its federal anti-drug budget between 1987 and
1989, and tripled it again in the 1990s. The growth of Mexico's anti-drug
program is particularly striking given that it has occurred during a time
of deep cuts in overall government spending: drug control stands out as one
of the few areas where state intervention in the economy is increasing.
Drug control now dominates the Mexican criminal justice system, with the
majority of the federal budget for the administration of justice devoted to
the effort. The "Mexican attorney general's office," notes Mexican scholar
Maria Celia Toro, "has basically become an anti-drug law enforcement agency"

President Miguel de La Madrid Hurtado officially declared drug trafficking
a national security threat in early 1988. And this declaration was
reinforced by the administration of Carlos Salinas. President Ernesto
Zedillo Ponce de Leon has gone even further, repeatedly declaring that drug
trafficking is the country's number one security threat. Given that
invoking national security is rare in Mexican political discourse, these
calls mark a significant departure from the past.

For Salinas, classifying drugs as a national security issue was both a
rhetorical move to improve relations with the United States and an attempt
to provide the rationale for a revitalized national security apparatus.
Salinas created a national security council and a new intelligence agency
set up a unit in the attorney general's office for drug enforcement, and
developed new anti-drug units in the federal judicial police. He also
reinforced the anti-drug role of the military, designating a new army staff
section that focused on drug control. By the late 1980s about one-third of
the military's budget was devoted to the anti-drug effort, and some 25,000
Mexican soldiers were involved in drug control operations-compared with
only 5,000 in the 1970s.

As a result of its anti-drug role, the military has become the "supreme
authority, or in some cases the only authority" in parts of some states,
such as Oaxaca, Sinaba, Jalisco, and Guerrero, according to Mexico watcher
Roderic Ai Camp. While the military has traditionally concentrated on crop
eradication, its anti-drug mission has significantly expanded in recent
years. "In the past, there was always a reluctance to allow the military to
play a stronger role," notes one United States official. "But with the
Zedillo administration, that mindset has dissolved." As a consequence,
military ties between the United States and Mexico have deepened in recent
years through military assistance and training for anti-drug programs.

THE LOGIC OF NARCO-CORRUPTION Increased Mexican drug enforcement has
generated a growing number of arrests and seizures and a rise in crop
eradication levels (Mexico boasts that it destroys more illicit crops than
any country in the world). These measures of policy progress are
high-lighted in the annual political ritual of the certification process,
in which the United States determines whether Mexico and other
drug-exporting countries are fully cooperating with American anti-drug
objectives. While these "body count" statistics are politically necessary
to maintain good relations with the United States and avoid the stigma of
being "decertified," the reality is that the drug trade has not only
survived but has thrived in the face of intensified Mexican drug control
efforts. United States and Mexican officials alike place much of the blame
on the corrupting power of the drug trade. Yet corruption is a two-way
relationship: it reflects the influence of drug smuggling over the state
and the state's influence over drug smuggling-and greater drug control
capacity has arguably only deepened this influence. Corruption involves not
only the penetration of the state but also penetration by the state. Drug
smugglers must purchase an essential service monopolized by government
officials: the non-enforcement of the law. Those in charge of enforcement
must be bribed because they cannot be entirely bullied or bypassed.

The extent of drug-related corruption in Mexico is revealed by the series
of high-profile murders and scandals in recent years (including the arrest
of Raul Salinas, the brother of Carlos Salinas) that have profoundly shaken
the political system. The primary purpose here is not to focus on the
mystery and intrigue that necessarily surround these controversial events
(the complex and often speculative details about who did what, when, and
why), but rather to try to make sense of the underlying logic of drug
corruption. Perhaps more than any other state regulatory activity, drug
enforcement provides extraordinary incentives to use public authority for
private gain. And these incentives only increase under conditions of fiscal
austerity, economic uncertainty and low wages.

At its core, drug corruption is a cost of doing business. While corruption
in the form of bribes and payoffs has long been a part of the relationship
between business and the state, it plays a more vital role in the case of
drug smuggling because of the illicit nature of the activity The enormous
profits from drug smuggling (inflated by the drug's criminalized status)
provide the financial means to corrupt. In the case of Mexico, a study by
the Autonomous National University in Mexico City has found that cocaine
traffickers spend as much as $500 million a year on bribery, which is more
than double the annual budget of the Mexican attorney general's office.
(These calculations are derived from a widely used model that assumes
$1,000 in payoffs for each kilogram of smuggled cocaine.)

TAXING THE DRUG TRADE A useful way to make sense of drug corruption is to
view the act of corruption as the equivalent of paying a tax. Levels of
corruption-the tax rate-often depend on the intensity of the drug
enforcement effort. As enforcement increases, so does the drug smuggler's
need to corrupt those who are doing the enforcing (the tax collectors). As
Gianluca Fiorentini and Sam Peltzman suggest in their 1995 book The
Economics of Organized Crime, the greater the deterrent effort, "the more
[it creates] incentives to invest in corruption and manipulation of the
deterrence agencies themselves." This general observation is certainly
applicable to the Mexican drug control experience. Even though increased
drug enforcement capacity has failed to significantly deter the drug trade,
it has increased the capacity to tax the trade in the form of corruption.

Smugglers who pay the "corruption tax" are less pressured by "tax
collectors" than those who do not. One senior Mexican official described
the process this way: "[Drug enforcement agents] receive money from one
group of traffickers and they cannot act against people from that group.
But they have their hands free to arrest people from other groups." This
type of selective enforcement allows officials to do their job-seizing
drugs and arresting smugglers-while also collecting taxes from the drug
trade. This dynamic favors large, well-connected smuggling organizations.
Those smugglers with the greatest resources and contacts can most afford
the corruption tax and pay it to the most appropriate tax collectors, while
the smaller smuggling entrepreneurs are treated as tax evaders. Not
surprisingly it is the smalltime smugglers who are most often "audited"
and penalized.

Taxing the drug trade sometimes takes the form of seizing a drug shipment
and then reselling all or part of it. Thus, confiscated drugs often
disappear while in custody In such cases, those charged with policing
smuggling actually become smugglers themselves. This reflects the larger
difficulty in Mexico of distinguishing between the police and the
criminals. An internal report from the Interior Ministry estimates that by
1995 there were about 900 armed criminal bands in the country-of which more
than 50 percent were made up of current or former law enforcement agents.

Police often double as drug enforcers and as drug-smuggling protectors.
When Sinaba drug cartel leader Hector "El Guerro" Palma was arrested by
the military in June 1995, he was at the home of the local police
commander; the majority of the armed men protecting him were federal
judicial police. Subsequent investigations revealed that Palma had bought
off the senior federal judicial police commanders in Guadalajara with
several $40 million payments.

The lucrative payoffs from the drug trade mean that there is intense
competition within and between law enforcement agencies-for example,
between local and federal police, who sometimes end up shooting at each
other. Violent conflicts often erupt between police operating as law
enforcers and police operating as law breakers. In one incident on March 3,
1994, members of the federal judicial police came under fire from the
judicial police of Baja California as they were attempting a drug bust.

There is also enormous competition within law enforcement agencies to be
assigned to key posts along major smuggling corridors. Eduardo Valle claims
that while he was in office, the top Mexican drug enforcement posts were
auctioned off to the highest bidder. The price of a law enforcement
position, he said, depends on changes in drug smuggling routes: "In
Coahuila, for example, there are four or five entrances into the United
States. If one crossing point is closed, the price of the federal police
chief's position in that area goes down because the post is irrelevant, but
the price of the police chief positions in other places goes up. This is
openly discussed inside the federal police."

The case of Mario Ruiz Massieu, Salinas's top anti-drug prosecutor between
March and November 1994, provides a glimpse into how the system of drug
corruption can be organized. During his tenure in office, cocaine seizures
plummeted. Federal prosecutors and police commanders allegedly paid Ruiz
Massieu as much as $1 million to be assigned to profitable posts along the
border and in other major drug areas. Officials regularly brought him
suitcases with up to $150,000 in kickbacks. One official familiar with Ruiz
Massieu's operation described it as a 'franchising system." Ruiz Massieu
apparently inherited rather than created this system of selling lucrative
posts and receiving large kickbacks.

Payoffs are made at each level of enforcement-the higher the position, the
higher the payoff. For example, a notebook recovered from the smuggling
organization run by Juan Garcia Abrego included this list of payoffs: $1
million to the national commander of Mexico's federal judicial police;
$500,000 to the forces' operations chief; $100,000 to federal police
commander in the city of Matamoros. Abrego's cousin, Francisco Perez,
testified in a federal trial in Texas in 1994 that he had delivered
$500,000 to Javier Coello, Mexico's deputy attorney general, between 1988
and 1991. Coello was eventually dismissed but never charged.

The particular shape and form of drug corruption in some ways mirrors the
structure and character of the Mexican state. As Peter Lupsha argues,
"because of the institutionalized authoritarian clientelism and
centralization built into the national dominance of the Institutional
Revolutionary Party or PRI, transnational groups like the Colombians must
work with and through Mexican organized crime groups who have corruptive
and collusive support of national institutions. . .for protection.

In other words, Colombian traffickers must operate in Mexico on Mexican
terms. In practice this means that the Colombians have become increasingly
reliant on their Mexican business partners, who have the necessary
political connections and long-established trafficking networks.
Consequently the power and wealth of Mexican traffickers has dramatically
increased in a relatively short period of time. Mexico's comparative
advantage in the cocaine trade is based on its access to the United States
market-and such access has only grown as economic barriers between Mexico
and the United States have fallen. Mexican traffickers and their protectors
within the state apparatus collect a sizable fee from their Colombian
counterparts for entry into the North American free trade zone.

As more cocaine is shipped through Mexico to the United States market by
way of legitimate commercial channels, drug payoffs reach beyond
law-enforcement to other regulatory agencies. The Mexican Office of
Communication and Transportation, Lupsha notes in his article, "is as
critical to the evolution of the Cali cartel's drug transportation system
as it is to NAFTA. Its portfolio includes the administration of airports,
seaports, highways, communications lines, and the Federal Highway Police."
Lupsha contends that "Cali's new transportation methodology requires
commercial airports, business fronts, the use of ports, free trade zones,
container facilities, trailer trucking firms, and railroads. In short, it
requires access, information, official forms, and seals that only an Office
of Communication and Transportation can provide."

Drug corruption in Mexico thus reflects a paradox: the state's drug
enforcement effort is undermined by the corrupting influence of the drug
trade, yet the drug trade cannot survive without the protection of
compromised elements within the state. Lupsha goes so far as to argue that
because of the centralized authoritarian nature of the Mexican political
system, drug traffickers must operate con permiso (with permission). The
trafficker must go beyond simply sharing drug profits and is "expected to
assist the police and the political system by providing grist for the
judicial mill, as well as public relations materials to give U.S. drug
enforcers. Thus, the trafficker could gain protection and warning
information; the police could gain credit, praise, and promotions; the
political system gained campaign monies and control; and the U.S.,
statistics, to justify a job well done."

Lupsha notes that this clandestine relationship between law enforcers and
law evaders is unstable, given the frequent changes in government
leadership, the transfer or promotion of key officials, and the often
violent competition between smuggling organizations over trafficking
routes. This instability is evident in the rise and demise of one of
Mexico's leading traffickers, Juan Garcia Abrego. Abrego's trafficking
operations, which had flourished in the Salinas years, lost high-level
protection after President Zedillo entered office, and soon also lost
market share to competitors based in Tijuana and Juarez. Having fallen out
of favor, Abrego became a hunted fugitive. By the time he was arrested in
early 1996 and extradited to the United States, his business was in
shambles. Nevertheless, Abrego's capture was applauded by the United States
and Mexico as a sign of official resolve in the anti-drug campaign.

THE STATE RESPONSE When drug corruption scandals have erupted in Mexico,
the official response has been to fire or transfer individual officers and
at times even disband entire agencies and create new ones. A report by the
attorney general's office indicates that over 400 agents of the federal
judicial police (more than 10 percent of total personnel) were fired or
suspended between mid-1992 and mid-1995 on drug-related charges. On August
14, 1996, 737 federal law enforcement officers were dismissed, including
Horacio Brunt, the celebrated police commander who had captured Abrego. An
additional 270 employees of the attorney general's office were fired
between December 1996 and August 1997. Such mass firings, however, only
begin to dent the problem: in 1996, the attorney general estimated that 70
to 80 percent" of the judicial police force was corrupt. Moreover, many
fired police officers have simply been rehired in other regions of the
country and hundreds of other officers have been reinstated after
challenging their dismissals in court.

Although the Zedillo administration has demonstrated a new resolve, past
patterns suggest a lack of sustained high-level political commitment to
confronting corruption. Salinas, for example, appointed Enrique Alvarez del
Castillo, who had been the governor of the state of Jalisco, attorney
general. Under his governorship the drug trade had thrived and traffickers
had operated with little to fear from the authorities. Salinas also tried
to appoint Miguel Nazar Hurtado Mexico City police intelligence chief
despite the fact that he had been indicted in 1982 by a United States grand
jury in San Diego on car theft and conspiracy charges.

Institutionalized corruption within Mexican law enforcement has generated
growing pressures to turn to the military to take on more drug control
tasks. But while militarization is interpreted by American officials as a
sign of Mexico's heightened resolve to fight drug trafficking, a greater
military role in drug control (and thus proximity to drug smugglers) is
also likely to generate greater corruption in the military. In late 1991,
in one of the most notorious cases of military corruption, ten federal
judicial police agents attempted to apprehend smugglers delivering 800
pounds of cocaine from a small airplane on a remote airstrip in the state
of Veracruz. The bust was interrupted when members of the Mexican army
opened fire on the agents, killing seven of them. The traffickers escaped.
A videotape of the incident by a United States Customs surveillance flight
overhead indicated that the Mexican soldiers were protecting the
traffickers. According to Mexican press reports at the time, this was just
one of a number of incidents in which the military thwarted a police
anti-drug operation.

A series of high-profile drug-related scandals in 1997 further exposed the
depth of the corruption problem in the Mexican military In February the
head of the federal anti-drug agency, General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, was
arrested on charges of working for Juarez cartel leader Amado Carrillo
Fuentes. The agency was quickly disbanded and is now slowly being rebuilt.
Then in March, General Alfredo Navarro Lara was arrested for attempting to
bribe the head federal justice official in Baja California on behalf of the
Arellano Felix brothers, the leaders of the Tijuana drug cartel. A recent
report by the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy notes
that 34 senior military officers have been targeted for disciplinary action
because of drug-related corruption. In the face of such high-level military
corruption, Zedillo has remained firmly committed to the militarization of
law enforcement, putting the military in charge of federal police
functions in at least eight states, as well as in Mexico City.

Meanwhile, the incentive for the PRI-dominated political system to turn to
illicit revenue may be increasing as other sources of funding dry up. As
Nora Lustig observed in the spring 1996 issue of the Brookings Review, "One
facet of the PRI crisis is financial. Long dependent on contributions from
(or raised through) the government, the party is ill-prepared to find
alternatives." Some of the more militant officials may be tempted "to turn
to 'donations' from unsavory sources, such as narco-traffickers." Concerns
about economic stability may also inhibit major anticorruption initiatives.
"Unfortunately the rule of law is to a certain extent hostage to Mexico's
financial vulnerability" Lustig explains. "The nation's leaders can
probably not afford to uncover the questionable or illegal activities
[engaged in] by prominent members of the political and business elites. The
attempt to change the rules of the game too swiftly and prosecute people
for past wrongdoings could trigger a wave of capital outflows large enough
to threaten the fragile recovery"

dynamics of corruption will eventually play out in Mexico's most important
illegal export sector may be found by looking at the past dynamics of
corruption in Mexico's most important legal export sector: oil. Drug
corruption in Mexico may be a particularly striking example of "crisis
corruption," in which there are "many suppliers trading in extraordinary
stakes."4 This highly disruptive form of corruption is not unfamiliar to
Mexico. In the late 1970s Mexico experienced a rapid influx of oil revenues
that, while not generating the violence associated with the drug trade,
nevertheless shares some similarities with the more recent influx of drug
profits. Michael Johnston notes that "key figures in PEMEX (the state oil
corporation), the Oil Workers Union, and the dominant political party
(PRI) had long enjoyed a number of politically significant and mutually
profitable corrupt arrangements. But when oil revenues began to grow
rapidly in 1977, this corruption became particularly flagrant and
disruptive. Old arrangements' in the oil industry gave way to intense
competition over shares of the new wealth. The new abuses became matters of
considerable controversy and PEMEX, PRI, and union figures came under
political attack from several quarters."

By 1982, when the oil boom went bust, "it was evident that the nation had
been 'sacked' by more than one set of actors. . . According to the
government's own admission, the oil boom had whetted unsavory appetites in
the nation and had spawned a substantial increase in the level of
corruption throughout the nation. "6 The influx of oil revenue had,
Johnston notes, "thus placed extraordinary resources in many hands,
transforming formerly integrative forms of corruption into disintegrative
crisis corruption."

This may describe the current Mexican situation in relation to drug
profits. If Mexico's earlier oil boom experience is any indication, today's
drug-related crisis corruption will not necessarily produce political
disintegration. Crisis corruption can be resolved in a number of ways. For
example, Johnston explains that a "leveling off in the influx of resources
might make the stakes of corruption more predictable, and thus less
extraordinary, with improved chances of repeated profits over longer
periods of time serving to moderate prices and to regulate terms of
exchange. Mexico's oil industry had gone through earlier phases of rapid
growth and flagrant corruption, reverting to more accustomed forms of
corruption during periods of more stable revenues." Alternatively he notes
that "a few suppliers of corrupt stakes might become sufficiently powerful
to impose a degree of order upon corrupt processes, perhaps producing one
or more systems of cronyism or patronage." Applied to the drug trade in
Mexico, either scenario suggests that the relationship between drug
smuggling and the state may eventually settle down, resulting in a more
stable, predictable, and less violent business environment.

Perhaps the best news for Mexico is that there are preliminary signs that
Colombian cocaine traffickers are starting to reduce their reliance on
Mexican smuggling routes by redeveloping routes through the Caribbean and
south Florida. It seems that the high cost of moving their product through
Mexico is scaring at least some of the illicit business away. A greater
diversification of smuggling routes may help to reduce corruption in
Mexico. Yet as long as America's seemingly insatiable appetite for imported
psychoactive substances persists, Mexico's close proximity to the United
States market assures that the logic of narco-corruption will remain

The Militarization Of The Drug War In Latin America ('Current History'
Says The United States Is Empowering The Same Forces
It Supported During The Cold War, Blocking The Transition
To More Democratic Societies)

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 22:45:52 -0400
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
Subject: MN: The Militarization of the Drug War in Latin America
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Steve Young
Source: Current History
Contact: chistory@aol.com
Pubdate: April 1998
Author: Peter Zirnite
Section: Page 166


Despite the end of the cold war and the transitions toward more democratic
societies in Latin America, the United States has launched a number of
initiatives that strengthen the power of Latin American security forces,
increase the resources available to them, and expand their role within
society - precisely when struggling civilian elected governments are striving
to keep them in check. Rather than encouraging Latin American militaries to
limit their role to the defense of national borders, Washington has instead
provided the training, resources, and doctrinal justification for
militaries to move into the business of building roads and schools,
offering veterinary and child inoculation services, and protecting the
environment. Of greatest concern, however, is America's insistence that the
region's armed forces - including the United States military itself - play
a significant role in domestic counternarcotics operations, a law
enforcement function reserved in most democracies for civilian police.

Although United States international narcotics control efforts have borne
little fruit to date, Congress and the Clinton administration have
dramatically increased security assistance to Latin America in the last two
years in the name of fighting the war on drugs. For 1997 (all date
references are to fiscal years, unless otherwise noted), the budget for
international drug control programs was $213 million, double the previous
year's figure. In addition, the administration approved a package of $112
million in military equipment and training for Colombia, Venezuela, Peru,
Mexico, and select Caribbean countries for antinarcotics purposes. Through
the provision of foreign aid, military equipment, and training, American
antinarcotics support for the region's military and police forces,
primarily in the Andean region and Mexico, more than tripled from 1996 to

While there is little reason to believe that the militarization of the drug
war will produce results in terms of controlling illicit drugs, its impact
could be devastating in countries where the drug war is being waged. In the
Andean region and Mexico, the United States is forging ever closer ties
with abusive police and military forces. In Peru and Colombia, Washington
is providing assistance to intelligence services and militaries that are
the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere. Moreover, through its
drug program, Washington is reinforcing a trend in Latin America of ceding
more and more civilian responsibilities to militaries, which themselves
present the greatest threat to democracy in the region. In short, in
country after country in Latin America, the United States war on drugs
undermines efforts to promote human rights, democracy and regional security.

Among the 50 or so government agencies involved in drug control efforts,
the United States military is on the front line of the war on drugs in
Latin America. The military's anti-drug plans call for it to provide the
intelligence, strategic planning, resources, and training needed for the
region's security forces to carry out antinarcotics efforts. In addition,
the military is in charge of costly interdiction efforts and participates
in domestic law enforcement attempts to stem the flow of illegal drugs into
the United States. In 1997 alone, the Defense Department's budget
allocated nearly $1 billion to drug control efforts.

Yet more than eight years after the drug war supplanted the cold war as the
central United States military mission in the hemisphere - and after the
expenditure of billions of dollars, the deployment of thousands of
personnel and much sophisticated equipment, and the provision of massive
assistance to its Latin American allies - the Defense Department has made
little headway against its new foe. While the militarization of anti-drug
operations may have produced occasional tactical victories - such as the
destruction of cocaine-processing labs, which are quickly replaced by
facilities in more remote locations - even its most ardent supporters admit
it has done little, if anything, to stanch the flow of cocaine into the
United States.

AIDING SECURITY FORCES - The primary tool for United States forces waging
the drug war abroad is "security assistance," which can include economic
assistance, training, intelligence support, equipment transfer and
maintenance support, and advice. International counternarcotics programs
are one of the few areas of growth in United States foreign assistance, and
an increasing percentage of this aid is earmarked for Latin America.

According to the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and
Law Enforcement Affairs (the INL, which coordinates all drug-related United
States aid), of the $213 million budgeted for in-country narcotics programs
in 1997, $116.2 million went directly to Latin America, an increase of
more than 40 percent over 1996. By comparison, the rest of the world - Asia,
Africa, and Europe - was slated to receive only $18.9 million. The remaining
funds were for regional programs, which were primarily oriented toward
Latin America. For 1998, of the $230 million requested for international
drug control programs, INL has earmarked $132.7 million for Latin America.

Traditionally, foreign security assistance has taken the form of Foreign
Military Financing and Economic Support Fund grants under the 1961 Foreign
Assistance Act, but the end of the cold war and concerns about the federal
budget deficit resulted in reduced appropriations for these grants. To fill
the void, Washington has turned to surplus United States weapons stocks,
using the Defense Department's Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program, which
was established in 1976. Although EDA transfers are limited to $10 million
per country per year, congressional investigators have found that the
Defense Department routinely underestimates the original acquisition value
of the equipment on which this limit is based.

At the same time, millions of dollars in military equipment, services, and
training are pumped directly into the region for counternarcotics purposes
by the president through use of his special "drawdown" authority Section
506 of the Foreign Assistance Act gives the president the power to transfer
up to $150 million of excess United States defense articles annually to
meet "unforeseen" emergencies that cannot be met through other aid channels
if he determines that doing so is "in the national interest of the United
States." On September 30, 1996, President Bill Clinton determined it would
be in the United States national interest to draw down up to $112 million
in articles, services, and military education and training from Defense
Department inventories to provide antinarcotics assistance to Peru,
Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, and the seven countries of the Eastern
Caribbean Regional Security System (a group established in the early 1980s
to address defense and law enforcement concerns, including drug
trafficking, on a multilateral basis).

. . .AND TRAINING THEM These various forms of security assistance are
accompanied by training and other forms of support provided directly by
the United States military. A key element are Tactical Analysis Teams
(TATS), which are made up of a small number of United States Special Forces
and military intelligence personnel. The teams pull together intelligence
from human and technical sources to select targets and plan operations to
be carried out by host nation military and police forces and United States
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents. While TATS determine
collection priorities and act as data managers, they do not actually
conduct intelligence collection operations. These activities, like the
counter-drug operations they support, are carried out by the DEA and other
United States and host nation agencies.

After the first two TATS, established in Peru and Bolivia in 1989, proved
successful in the eyes of United States military planners, their number
rapidly expanded. In mid-February 1997, the number stood at 14, with three
countries hosting two teams - Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil - and single
teams in eight other countries -Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras,
Panama, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia.

As the TATS evolved, they began to integrate tactical operations into an
overall strategy to attack drug trafficking organizations, with the goal of
establishing evidentiary links between raided cocaine labs and other
components of the organization. "The optimum scenario," according to the
Office of the Department of Defense Coordinator for Drug Enforcement Policy
and Support, "is a 'full court press' on all trafficking organization
members and critical nodes to completely disrupt or destroy their
production and shipping capabilities." The host nation's ability to execute
this highly desired "full court press" is being enhanced by Special Forces
trainers who, as David Isenberg at the Center for Defense Information has
noted, provide in-country instruction in "drug interdiction and
search-and-destroy techniques."

These training teams typically are composed of six Navy Seal and Army Green
Beret officers who spend about three weeks in a country providing
instruction, but they can be as small as a single officer or as large as an
entire platoon (20 to 30 people). A vital part of their instruction, United
States officials stress, is human rights training. However, training is
provided regardless of the human rights record and political will for human
rights-related reforms exhibited by recipient forces. For 1997, SOUTHCOM
(Southern Command, the military command that is the center of United
States anti-drug efforts) planned 37 training deployments- 1 to Ecuador, 9
to Venezuela, 6 each to Peru and Bolivia, and 5 to Colombia-that were to
involve 633 personnel.

In-country training is supplemented by instruction at United States
military facilities. Among the United States-based facilities used for
counternarcotics instruction is the School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort
Benning, Georgia, which was rocked by revelations in 1996 that as recently
as 1991 it used manuals advocating torture and murder of political
opponents. The SOA currently offers officers an 11-week course that
provides instruction in planning, leading, and executing drug interdiction
operations, including weapons, infiltration, and surveillance techniques;
patrolling; demolition; and close-quarters combat.

Counternarcotics training, whether conducted in-country or at United States
facilities, is viewed by many Defense Department officials as an important
opportunity to foster closer ties with the region's armed forces, one of
the key goals of the department's post-cold war strategy for the
hemisphere. A case in point is the training currently being provided to
Mexican troops, who were called in to fill the void created in 1996 by the
dismissal of some 800 federal police officers for ethical breaches. Before
the United States began providing counter-drug training to Mexico's
military "essentially we had no relations with them," one Defense
Department official said. "The idea of building military-to-military
relations is very important." United States officials insist that
corruption among the Mexican police makes a military role in the drug war
necessary. Yet in bringing in the military, the United States may be
setting in motion a trend that will be difficult if not impossible to
reverse: increased Mexican military involvement in domestic political
matters. Mexico's military now commands police forces in two-thirds of the
states, looking for drug traffickers, patrolling Mexico City streets,
directing traffic, and combating petty crime. By encouraging the
militarization of Mexican society in the interest of combating narcotics,
the United States undermines its own long-term goal of a stable, civilian,
democratic regime in Mexico. Nor is there any evidence that the Mexican
military is less susceptible to corruption than the police; it is,
however, less transparent and accountable, making corruption even more
difficult to root out.

Human rights groups point to a number of other problems inherent in United
States military counternarcotics training programs. The jungle
warfare-type training that the United States military is providing to
Latin American security forces is not well suited for drug control efforts,
which should be oriented toward sound investigations and criminal
prosecutions. Moreover, the law enforcement training that does take place
would be more appropriately carried out by United States law enforcement
agencies. It is deeply disturbing that the United States military is
training local forces in surveillance tactics to be used on their own
citizens, given that such practices have been used in the past to
systematically violate basic human rights. Moreover, the United States is
aiding and training troops within whose ranks are some of the worst human
rights violators in the hemisphere without first insisting on fundamental
reforms to ensure significant reductions in human rights violations and
effective prosecution of those responsible.

Also of deep concern, by the early 1990s - with the authority equipment,
and funding to plan operations, bolster host nation forces, and transport
these personnel to the front - United States military forces appeared to be
perilously close to a direct combat role in the war against the South
American drug cartels and, at least indirectly, insurgencies.

THE PENTAGON'S MEAT AND POTATOES The flow of United States military
personnel and equipment to the Andean region has drawn considerable
attention, but it is a mere trickle compared to the resources the military
has spent on its congressionally mandated role as the lead United States
agency for the detection and monitoring of air and maritime shipments of
illegal drugs into the United States.

Beginning at $212 million in 1989, the Defense Department's detection and
monitoring budget mushroomed to more than $950 million in 1992, the peak
year for spending on this program. During that same period, the military's
overall spending on counternarcotics jumped from $501.6 million to $1.14
billion. Spending on surveillance grew rapidly, as the General Accounting
Office (GAO) pointed out in a September 1993 report, "despite the lack of
clear-cut objectives." As a result, the eventual cost of the program grew
"out of proportion to the benefits it provide[d]."

The military's inventory of radar-equipped ships and aircraft was a major
reason for giving it the lead detection and monitoring role, but it soon
discovered that many of these assets were intrinsically ineffective in
combating the drug-smuggling threat. As the GAO pointed out in a scathing
1993 report, "Sensors designed to detect large supersonic aircraft and
nuclear-powered submarines are less proficient against low-flying planes
and small wooden boats." Agency investigators reported that these problems
were exacerbated by the "absence of intelligence tips" necessary to sort
out smugglers from the considerable legitimate maritime traffic heading
toward the United States. Moreover, drug traffickers quickly adopted new
tactics and routes-as interdiction efforts in the Caribbean intensified,
other United States agencies reported that the bulk of cocaine traffic
entering the United States began coming overland through Mexico. Yet the
military continued to expand air and maritime surveillance.

The military's drug surveillance activities illustrate a critical point
about the war on drugs: performance and effectiveness are not synonymous.
It is a distinction that advocates of further militarization still do not
make, allowing them to declare small, tactical successes "victories" even
though they contribute little, if anything, to the ultimate objective of
the drug war-reducing domestic drug use. Defense Department officials
frequently cite such indicators as their high level of effort, praise from
their colleagues in law enforcement, and increasing drug seizures and
arrests. But the level of effort is an indication of their commitment to
the mission, not its success. Nor are increased arrests and drug seizures
accurate measures of effectiveness, because they may reflect a rise in
drug trafficking rather than an actual reduction in drug availability

TARGETING THE SOURCE COUNTRIES Congress began cutting funds for the
military's detection and monitoring mission in 1993. But it was a decision
by President Clinton late that year that resulted in a drastic reduction in
detection and monitoring funding and another shift in the focus of United
States drug control strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean. Following
a review of the United States counter-drug strategy completed in November
1993, Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 14 (PDD-14), which
shifted the emphasis from interdicting cocaine as it moved through the
transit zones to stopping it at its source in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru.

Despite the steady increase in coca production since the Andean strategy
was launched, the Clinton administration in early 1994 refocused anti-drug
efforts on coca plants, the leaves of which are mixed with chemicals to
make cocaine. Because fewer alternatives exist for growing coca than for
any other link in the drug trafficking chain, argues Robert E. Brown,
deputy director for supply reduction in the Office of National Drug
Control Policy (ONDCP), source country operations should focus more on crop
eradication and substitution programs than on the disruption of processing
and transportation. ONDCP announced last year its intention to eliminate
worldwide coca production within ten years, a laughable proposition at best
and an invitation to direct United States intervention in coca-growing
regions at worst.

Coca substitution programs, under which farmers are paid to produce
oranges, bananas, cacao, and other crops instead of coca, are expensive,
and Brown and other United States officials acknowledge that because
Washington is unable to pay the tab, it is encouraging its Latin American
allies, most of whom have other development priorities, to seek assistance
for crop substitution programs from multilateral institutions. The ability
of these institutions to shoulder the burden is also questionable. The
annual budget of the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP), for
example, is about $70 million, or roughly half the State Department's
international narcotics funding in 1996. In 1995, UNDCP could provide just
$2.2 million in supplemental funding to Peru, compared to an estimated $15
million provided by Washington.

The Clinton administration's announced shift in strategy touched off a
battle between the Republican-controlled Congress and the Democratic White
House over United States drug control policy that reached a fever pitch in
1996, an election year, and still rages today Republicans attempt to blame
the increasing flow of cocaine into the country on the president's decision
to reduce transit zone interdiction efforts. Clinton administration
officials counter by arguing that Congress cut back funding for
interdiction faster than the White House had originally proposed, while
failing to provide the full funding requested for source country programs.

The administration has attempted to offset transit zone funding cuts by
encouraging greater cooperation from its Caribbean allies, but its efforts
have met with strong resistance from leaders concerned about a further
erosion of their national sovereignty Although Trinidad and Tobago quickly
agreed to a "hot pursuit" treaty Barbados and Jamaica both strongly opposed
attempts by Washington to forge bilateral antinarcotics agreements that
would allow United States forces to pursue suspected drug traffickers
within the territorial waters and airspace of another country and only
signed treaties after intense United States pressure. Regional leaders
accused the United States of using "unfounded allegations, innuendoes, and
the threat of punitive measures aimed at the economic welfare of Caribbean
states" in its efforts to force them to provide the carte blanche for hot

ATTACKING THE "AIR BRIDGE" While the Defense Department continues to spend
more money on transit zone interdiction programs and assistance to
domestic law enforcement agencies, most of the military's energy at least
in terms of public promotion, is now being spent on source country
programs, and in particular its attack on the so-called air bridge that
connects coca growers and coca paste manufacturers in Peru and Bolivia with
Colombian cocaine refiners and distributors. The aim is to interdict drugs
before they enter the transit zone. By targeting the small aircraft that
ferry coca paste from Peru and Bolivia to Colombia for refining, United
States military planners argue, coca farmers will no longer be able to get
their product to the "market," thus driving down the price paid to growers
and forcing them to convert their coca fields to more lucrative, licit
crops. At the same time, it will drive up the cost of transport for
Colombian drug traffickers, an increase that will then be passed on to
United States consumers, who will be discouraged from using cocaine by the
higher price.

This strategy temporarily became entangled in a dispute over policies
adopted by the Peruvian and Colombian governments-with strong United States
encouragement-to shoot down planes of suspected drug traffickers. When
Colombia announced in early 1994 that it too, like Peru, would adopt a
shoot-down policy, some United States officials in Washington became
concerned that the policy would violate international law After the Justice
Department ruled that "United States officials who knowingly provide
information that leads to the shooting down of civilian aircraft could be
subject to criminal prosecution," the Defense Department halted the sharing
of "real-time" aircraft tracking information with Colombia and Peru in May
1994. Congress responded that fall by providing official immunity for
authorized United States personnel engaging in assisting foreign countries
in anti-drug aircraft interdiction.

Freed of legal constraints, the military began its attack on the air bridge
in early 1995 by supplying the Peruvian and Colombian armed forces with
sophisticated radar and surveillance equipment. By October of that year
these efforts had evolved into a formal, classified mission dubbed
Operation Green Clover, a three-month operation in which more than 300
United States soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines worked in tandem with
forces from Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. "We
assist with what we call the 'end game,' which is the actual capturing of a
plane, but it is the host nations themselves that do any chasing or
shooting," explained Brigadier General George Close, SOUTHCOM's director of

SOUTHCOM officials trumpet Green Clover's success in terms of disrupting
the air bridge, but reports on the extent of this success vary According to
the January 19, 1996, issue of the command's own newspaper, Tropic Times,
the operation "resulted in the shooting down of 27 drug-smuggling aircraft
by allied nations." When touting the success of Green Clover three months
later, Secretary of Defense William Perry said, "Twelve drug-smuggling
aircraft were interdicted or shot down by allied nation forces during the
operation." Nonetheless, the "superbly executed military operation" led to
an expansion of the source country strategy according to its
self-proclaimed "principal architect," General Barry McCaffrey the
commander of SOUTHCOM.

In April 1996, a month after McCaffrey stepped down as SOUTHCOM'5 commander
to become national drug czar, the military announced the launch of its
successor mission, Operation Laser Strike. As part of the ongoing
operation, United States military personnel work cooperatively with nine
Latin American countries, operating ground-based radar sites, flying
detection and monitoring aircraft, and providing operation and
intelligence support to host nation forces. While the air bridge between
Peru and Colombia was the sole focus of Green Clover, Laser Strike expanded
the source country strategy; it now includes operations aimed at
disrupting the river and coastal smuggling routes developed by drug
traffickers as an alternative to air transportation in neighboring Ecuador,
Venezuela, and Bolivia, as well as in Peru and Colombia.

In October 1996 McCaffrey told Congress that "results of this
multinational, cooperative effort have yielded stunning tactical results.
The so-called 'air bridge' between Peru and Colombia saw a greater than 50
percent temporary reduction of flights as aircraft were intercepted and, in
some cases, shot down. The cost of shipments increased fivefold, as pilots
demanded more money as their personal risk increased dramatically Movement
was reduced so dramatically that there was a glut of coca base on the
market and the price of the product being shipped fell by 50 percent
overall and as much as 80 percent in some areas.

The "success" of the air bridge attacks is noted widely by the Clinton
administration, even as the flow of drugs into the country continues to
rise and South American coca and poppy production expand. While
acknowledging that these operations have had no impact on the availability
and price of cocaine in the United States, a high-ranking National Security
Council official, Peter Boynton, director of global issues and multilateral
affairs, still argued in March 1997 that the administration has "been
successful to an extent that no one has had before." Because of a dramatic
drop in profits from coca leaf production, farmers are now "more open" to
growing alternative, licit crops, he explained, adding that intelligence
reports indicate there has been "significant abandonment of coca fields in

The administration's assertion that coca production in Peru in 1996 fell
precipitously - l8 percent according to its figures - is not in dispute. What
is in dispute are the reasons for that fall. Coca fields continue to be
abandoned due to the spread of a fungus that has recently plagued coca
production in Peru. (In fact, Peruvian coca farmers have been clamoring
for years for economic support in order to switch to alternative crops.) In
addition, Peruvian coca and cocaine base have traditionally been
purchased by the Cali cartel; hence, coca production in Peru was
significantly affected by the Colombian government's gains against the
cartel, most of whose leadership is now behind bars. More important,
Colombian drug analysts point out that Colombian traffickers have sought
to "verticalize" the cocaine industry by eliminating the need to transport
a raw material, coca or cocaine base, from other countries. As a result,
coca production in Colombia increased by a huge 32 percent in 1997 alone,
according to the United States government's own figures. Colombian
traffickers are now importing and promoting domestic production of a more
potent and productive variety of Peruvian coca from the Tingo Maria region.
Finally administration officials themselves note that as a result of the
"successful" air interdiction program, more cocaine-related products are
transported by river - hence the need for more resources for greatly
expanded riverine interdiction programs.

A POLICY DOOMED TO FAILURE Even as the Defense Department plans further
expansion of its counternarcotics efforts, many within its ranks remain
highly critical of the military's involvement in the drug war. Like their
civilian counterparts, these critics question the underlying rationale for
the mission, its effectiveness, and its impact on the region's democratic
institutions. They also challenge the strategy and tactics being used to
carry out the mission, arguing that they work at cross-purposes with the
desired result.

The military's counternarcotics operations in Latin America have also been
hurt by its poor understanding of the Clausewitzian principle of attacking
the enemy's "center of gravity" according to critics. If, as Clausewitz
suggests, the "center of gravity" is the "hub of all power" and "the point
against which all energies should be directed," then, by its own
estimation, the military is fighting a foe whose defeat is improbable.
SOUTRCOM officials have identified 14 "centers of gravity" in the drug war,
including "narcoguerrillas," coca farmers, drug labs, coca and poppy
growing areas, and drug mafias, as well as drug users in the United States
and Latin America. That there are this many centers of gravity would
indicate that the mission nears the impossible. Analysts Eva Bertram and
Kenneth Sharpe argued in the Winter 1996 issue of World Policy Journal that
the real "center of gravity" is the demand for drugs in the United States,
which creates the economic incentive to supply them. In that case, "the
enemy in the drug war is not a foreign army of insurgency but an economic

The current supply-side approach is further hampered by the "balloon
effect" of applying pressure in one place only to see the problem pop up
some-where else. Perhaps an even more accurate description is the "hydra
effect" noted by Bertram and Sharpe in their World Policy Journal article:
"Like the mythical sea serpent that Hercules battled, the drug trade is an
evasive enemy: Each time one of the hydra's heads is cut off, two more grow
in its place." Repeated counternarcotics operations have caused traffickers
to diversify their supply routes, while sometimes forcing coca growers and
processors to move their fields and labs to more remote areas. The
potential for controlling the impact of the hydra effect on drug
interdiction efforts is severely limited by the sheer size of the
geographic area involved. Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia combined are as
large as the United States east of the Mississippi, and the Caribbean and
Gulf of Mexico equal slightly less than half the land area of the United
States. Despite the best intentions of the Defense Department and other
United States government agencies, all evidence points to a glut of coca,
cocaine, and heroin on the international and United States markets.

Beyond the failure of the drug war to date to stem the flow of illicit
drugs into this country United States military personnel express concern
about the unintended consequences of a drug war that has led Washington to
forge closer ties with military forces that are notorious human rights
violators. In calling for the demilitarization of United States anti-drug
efforts, one Navy commander cited a report on drug policy produced by an
Inter-American commission that noted that the increased military role in
drug enforcement in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia resulted in "greater
violence and increased violations of human rights." Others warn that by
tightening its alliance with local military forces, the United States
government undermines people's faith in civilian institutions at a time
when democratic development remains delicate.

THE ADMINISTRATION IN DENIAL Clinton administration officials respond
vociferously to suggestions that human rights and democratization are
taking a back seat to the objectives of the drug war. They stress that all
counternarcotics training provided to the region's militaries includes
human rights instruction and that all United State's personnel receive
human rights training before they are sent to the region, where they are
required to report any suspected abuses by their allies. Bu through the
drug war, United States assistance is provided prior to actual improvements
in human rights performance or demonstrated political will on the part of
aid recipients to hold accountable those responsible for abuses.

Washington works most closely with local military forces because there are
few alternatives, explains ONDCP's Brown, noting that police in the region
are "most typically corrupt because they are vastly underpaid." The
alternative of strengthening civilian institutions to increase their
effectiveness in countering drug trafficking "is not a viable approach
anywhere in the near term." However, as described earlier, the long-term
consequences of increasing military involvement in the drug war may be even
more detrimental to the prospects for democratic consolidation and regional
stability, both of which are fundamental for international drug control
efforts to ultimately succeed. Calling out the troops may satisfy
short-term needs to score political points at home, but it undermines
effort' to rein in Latin American militaries and redefine their roles to
encompass only traditional national defense. Nor is it clear that bringing
in the military will allow local governments to circumvent the very real
problem of corruption. As Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozado, who
completed his term in office last year, once put it, "When you have corrupt
chief of police, you fire him. When you have a corrupt chief of the army he
fires you." The check of accountability and transparency for the region's
armed forces makes routing out the inevitable corruption that accompanies
anti-drug efforts even more difficult.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS The future course of the military's counternarcotics
efforts is unlikely to be shaped as much by he debate within the United
States military or the Clinton administration as it will be by developments
on Capitol Hill, where the purse strings are controlled. In the drug war,
as a Defense Department official put it, the military does "what we have
been told to do" by Congress. Political pressure by Congress for further
militarization of the drug war 5 undeniable, with lawmakers displaying
their enthusiasm by consistently providing Defense with more
counternarcotics funding than the White House requests, including an
additional $143 million in 1997

One of the United States Navy's highest-ranking officials, retired Admiral
Elmo Zumwalt, has dismissed the heated rhetoric by noting that "when
congressmen and senators sound off, it is usually 10 percent body and 90
percent odor." How noxious the current stink becomes may depend on how
effective general-turned-drug czar Barry McCaffrey is in his post. When
Clinton named General McCaffrey the Persian Gulf War hero and former
SOUTHGOM commander, head of the ONDCP in March 1996, it was widely seen as
a direct response to Republican election-year criticisms that the president
was "soft" on drugs. And many people argued, some favorably that the
appointment presaged a further militarization of the drug war. Since taking
office, however, McCaffrey has eschewed use of the war metaphor when
discussing United States anti-drug efforts, preferring to cast the enemy
not as a military foe but rather a social "cancer" that requires a
different sort of response. "At the end of the day I would suggest that
this actually isn't a war and it's not to be won by anybody's army," he
told Congress soon after being named drug czar. "At the end of the day
prosecutors, law enforcement officers, teachers, school superintendents,
religious leaders, that is who the front-line troops are.

Nevertheless, while McCaffrey may be inclined to view the surgeon general
as the most appropriate commander for the overall United States
counternarcotics effort, it is clear that he believes there still is a
vital role for United States military forces to play In a March 1997 speech
at the Heritage Foundation, he reiterated his argument that the use of the
war metaphor is inappropriate, but then quickly made an exception for Latin
America, where "the language is pretty useful for us." Despite General
McCaffrey's rhetoric highlighting the problem of demand for illegal drugs,
programs and resources have not shifted accordingly. The expanded ONDCP
staff is stacked with his military proteges, and he has proved himself to
be more adept at obtaining funds for his Latin American military allies
than for domestic, demand-related programs.

The 1997 National Drug Control Strategy the first the ONDCP produced fully
under his tenure, provided additional evidence that McCaffrey will keep
United States military personnel active in the fight against illegal drugs,
both internationally and domestically United States forces and their
regional allies must continue to "give the traffickers no quarter," the
report urged, and to do so will require "taking aggressive action in
source countries, throughout the transit zone, and at our borders."

Since politics shapes the course of United States policy more than the
realities of the drug problem, the future role of the military in fighting
drugs ultimately may be decided by whichever of two strong popular
currents proves to be the more powerful in terms of generating public
pressure. The first is the desire to slash government spending, which
raises the question of how long the public will tolerate the expenditure of
nearly a billion dollars a year on military counternarcotics efforts that
have yielded little in terms of reducing the demand for and availability
of drugs in the United States.

Defense spending, however, traditionally has been the last area hit by the
congressional budget ax, and this is a result of the second driving force,
the near-childlike faith Americans have in the ability of their armed
forces. They believe the military solution to the national drug problem
will be relatively painless since it will occur outside the country As
long as the national drug control strategy continues its overwhelming
emphasis on supply-side controls, much of the action in the drug war is
guaranteed to occur beyond United States borders under the Defense
Department's command. The principal question that remains is how
"aggressive" that action will be. The costs to democratization and human
rights throughout the region will no doubt continue to be high.

Asia's Drug Menace And The Poverty Of Diplomacy ('Current History'
Says That, Contrary To Expectations, Asia's Economic Boom
Has Increased Demand For Illicit Drugs And Helped Expand Production,
Transportation And Political Corruption)

Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 22:20:17 -0400
To: mapnews@mapinc.org
From: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org (MAPNews)
Subject: MN: Asia: Asia's Drug Menace and the Poverty of Diplomacy
Sender: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Reply-To: owner-mapnews@mapinc.org
Newshawk: Steve Young
Source: Current History
Contact: chistory@aol.com
Pubdate: April 1998
Author: James Shinn
Section: Page 174


Optimists on both sides of the Pacific hoped that the end of the cold war
would also hasten the end of Asia's undeclared drug war. Rapid economic
development would ease the grinding poverty that fostered both poppy
cultivation and narcotics addiction, political liberalization would root
out corrupt officials and impose the rule of law on criminal dealers, and
multilateral cooperation by Pacific Rim governments would crush Asia's

The optimists were wrong.

Rising incomes have stimulated demand for narcotics throughout the region,
creating a booming market for opium cultivators in the rural backwaters
left untouched by Asia's economic miracle. Politicians and police in Asian
democracies have shown themselves no more immune to "donations" from drug
syndicates than their counterparts in South or North America. Meanwhile,
lingering suspicion, bureaucratic distaste, and multilateral sloth impede
regional efforts to suppress the drug trade; the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum,
and the UN have been equally impotent in addressing the foreign policy
problem of narcotics.

THE MIRACLE'S OTHER SIDE Asia's rising economic tide has made the drug
problem worse, since the demand for narcotics increases with higher income
levels. High incomes also lead to more variety in drug consumption. Hmong
tribesmen in the Vietnamese highlands may still smoke raw opium, but urban
Asians can choose from a wide assortment refined narcotics that range from
heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine (known as 'ice") to so-called
designer drugs - synthetic narcotics hallucinogens - such as Ecstasy. The
narcotics problem in Asia is not primarily an issue of drug smuggling from
the Golden Triangle to the United States but of new consumption patterns on
both sides the Pacific (the Golden Triangle is the traditional
opium-growing region that incorporates parts northern Thailand, eastern
Burma, and western Laos).

Laos is a classic example of this change in consumption habits: Laotian
addicts now consume almost half the estimated 200 metric tons of opium
produced in Laos each year, most of which used be exported. Overall, at
least 50 percent of the 3,000 metric tons of opium grown in Asia is
consumed within the region.[1] Ominously, Asia has become the largest and
fastest-growing narcotic market in the world, accounting for 40 percent
world consumption. The number of drug addicts the region is huge: 1.2
million heroin addicts in Thailand and 400,000 in Burma, and 500,000
addicts in Japan. China has 500,000 registered heroin addicts, but
estimates of the actual number range from 1 million to 2 million.

Along with higher incomes, rapid urbanization and internal migration are
fueling this explosion in demand. Asian megacities such as Jakarta,
Bangkok, and Guangdong are ringed with teeming slums where young men and
women are cut off from their rural roots and community support networks.
China has at least 100 million people drifting around the country in search
of work. The onslaught of "modernity" corrodes traditional values quickly,
and drug consumption is a tempting form of relief and recreation.

Soaring drug demand has been accompanied by supply-side improvements in
price, quality, and delivery. For example, heroin street prices in the
United States have fallen by two-thirds over the past 15 years, from $3,400
per gram in 1981 to $1,200 per gram in 1995, and purity has soared from 15
percent to 50 percent because of better production technology in Asia and
more sophisticated smuggling around the Pacific.

PUTTING GLOBALIZATION TO WORK The Chinese criminal gangs that traffic most
of Asia's narcotics have moved drug production labs into the jungles of
Southeast Asia, near the opium harvest, taking advantage of better
equipment and more easily obtainable precursor chemicals used in the
refining process. These smaller portable labs can also be used to "cook"
methamphetamines (a smelly and potentially dangerous process) and
synthesize designer drugs. Taiwanese criminal syndicates have moved their
ice production sites to China's coastal provinces such as Fujian, just as
many legitimate Taiwanese chemical companies have moved their bulk
production to the mainland while supplying complex precursor ingredients
from Taiwan.

The entrepreneurs behind this production innovation, Chinese criminal
"triads" such as the Sun Yee On, Wo Hop To, United Bamboo, and the 14K
gang, are equally skilled in delivering the finished product throughout
Asia and to the United States and Europe. Narcotics are produced locally
but sold globally.

Two-thirds of the world's opium is grown in Southeast Asia, most of it in
Burma, whose annual output is estimated at 2,500 metric tons (which equals
250 metric tons of heroin), grown under the protection of local drug
warlords such as Khun Sa and his Mong Tai "Army." Once refined, the heroin
is transported south to Bangkok where it is shipped to the wider world, or
northeast across the border into China's Yunnan province and then overland
to Guangdong and Hong Kong, where the triads can tap into the global
shipping network. Chinese authorities were shocked in April 1996 when they
stumbled across 600 kilograms of heroin in Guangdong on its way to Hong Kong.

The triads have formed strategic alliances with other criminal
organizations to distribute the entire pharmacopoeia of narcotics and to
launder the resulting cash flow. The triads, for example, supply ice to
Japanese yakuza or criminal gangs, such as the Inagawa-gai and the
Yamaguchi-gumi, who import rather than produce most of Japan's
methamphetamine supply They also assist the yakuza in recycling their
revenues offshore, frequently through real estate investments in Asian
cities or in Hawaii. The triads also work closely with Nigerian smuggling
rings that supply Europe with Asian heroin, and with Latin American gangs,
such as the infamous Cali syndicate, trading Burmese heroin for Colombian
cocaine to satisfy Asia's burgeoning crack market.

One of the engines of Asia's economic dynamism - free trade in goods and
liberalized financial transactions - also makes it easy for the triads to
smuggle narcotics and launder the revenues. In Taiwan, 3.8 million marine
shipping containers arrive each year at the major ports of Keelung and
Kaohsiung. Of these, 1.8 million are labeled transit containers; Taiwan
Customs ignores these and merely samples the other 2 million containers on
a random basis, resulting in an inspection - often cursory - of only about
300,000 containers.[2]

It is clear that even with the best of intentions, Taiwan's Customs
authorities are overwhelmed by the scale of their country's trade - it would
require an army of agents just to inspect the marine container traffic
(United States Customs estimates that it takes 5 agents 3 hours to fully
inspect a standard marine container). In the region's many free-trade
zones, such as the ports of Hong Kong and Macau, Masan and In in South
Korea, Batam in Indonesia, and China's special economic zones of Shenzhen,
Zhuhai, Xiamen, and Shantou, there is no customs revenue to be gained from
inspecting freight traffic, so the authorities do not even try to inspect
for drugs. Asia's stream of narcotics simply vanishes in the vast river of
Asian commerce.

Laundered drug money is even more difficult to trace. By "chaining" money
transfers between multiple institutions (that is, making multiple transfers
back-to-back), triads can effectively delete a paper trail. Even if law
enforcement authorities successfully trace a transactions needle through a
funds-transfer haystack, they often end up stymied by bank confidentiality.
No longer an exclusive feature of the Channel or Cayman Islands banks, such
confidentiality is now offered to Asian customers at new offshore banking
facilities on the Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, Samoa, and Nauru.

But the triads do not need to travel so far. With its unregulated and
sophisticated financial markets, Hong Kong - the city built on the
nineteenth-century opium trade - remains the Mecca of money laundering in
Asia. The city's authorities have long turned a blind eye to this activity.
A senior Chinese official bitterly observed to the author in June 1996 that
"Soon we will recover Hong Kong from the British, who are already
complaining that we will wreck the colony's rule of law. What rule of law?
[This is] the transshipment point for most of Asia's narcotics, the place
where most of the drug money is laundered, and where the triad criminals
hide their investments in bank accounts or flats on Victoria Peak. If we
move into Hong Kong in 1997 and clean up this nest of thieves, the Western
press will pillory us for trampling on the colony's civil rights."

MONEY'S CORROSIVE POLITICAL INFLUENCE Not only have economic growth, free
trade, and unfettered financial flows compounded Asia's narcotics problem,
but political liberalization and democratization throughout the region have
failed to deliver on the promise of imposing "law and order" on the drug

It is ironic that criminal triads have been among the first beneficiaries
of the transition from "hard" to "soft" authoritarianism in Vietnam and
China. When an authoritarian state begins to liberalize, it creates more
space free of government-space where criminals can thrive as easily as
other citizens under the protection of law and due process. Law enforcement
becomes essentially reactive: the police cannot simply swoop down on triads
or yakuza and arrest their members. Once jailed, due process makes it
harder to hold criminals; it also imposes rules governing evidence and
property seizure, and forces the state to at least go through the motions
of a trial.

The political transition of states such as China and Vietnam has also
compounded the pervasive corruption among police and customs officials and
in the justice system and the armed forces. It is a mark of China's
openness to the world trade system that customs officials no longer
strictly regulate what crosses its borders. This has been a boon to the
triads which, with modest gratuities to poorly paid Chinese officials, can
now transit China with ease en route to Hong Kong. Vietnam is increasingly
permeable for the same reason; the 1997 United States State Department's
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report concludes that "corruption
is endemic at all levels of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's police and
military authorities."

Authoritarian states in Asia do not have monopoly on corruption:
politicians in the democracies are as cash hungry as their counterparts in
Latin America and the United States. Money is the mother's milk of
electoral politics in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and
criminal syndicates are eager contributors to campaign coffers.

Why fight the police when you can buy political protection? The triads and
the yakuza closely studied Colombia's narcotrafficantes. They saw the
Medellin cartel, which virtually declared war on the government, killing
250 judges and even the minister of justice, provoked a campaign by the
government that ultimately crushed their syndicate. The Cali cartel
eschewed such violence. Instead quietly injected cash into the electoral
pro including contributions to the campaign of president Ernesto Samper,
and remained in business.

In Asia, the triads sometimes cross the between smuggling and participating
directly in politics, as in the case of Thanong Siriprechapo member of the
Thai Parliament who was extradicted to the United States in January 1996 on
narco-trafficking charges. The influence of drug money on Thai politics is
pervasive: parliament has refused to pass a bill that would make it more
difficult to disguise drug money, despite numerous entreaties from the
United States. This has led the Department to complain that "Thailand's
sophisticated banking system and an active quasi-legal non-bank financial
system provide a hospitable climate for money launderers."

GEOPOLITICAL ROADBLOCKS... Public opinion polls in Asia and North America
regularly put narcotics near the top of the list of international problems.
It is the most salient of all "global government" concerns, such as illegal
immigration or pollution, and easily the most intrusive in the daily life
and personal security of the average citizen. Narcotics busts, tales of
addiction, and violent drug-related crimes grab headlines on a regular
basis. But governments on both sides of the Pacific have been curiously
slow in adding narcotics to the diplomatic agenda, unable to move beyond
pious expressions of concern to tackle these problems together. What
happened to the anticipated Golden Age of multilateral cooperation that was
supposed to unfold in Asia in the post-cold war era?

The passing of the cold war superpower standoff did not change Asian
politics as dramatically as it transformed the political landscape of
Europe. Two unresolved national unity problems - between China and Taiwan,
and between the two Koreas - fuel a high level of suspicion in the region.
And two failed states - Burma and Cambodia - are locked in violent internal
struggles for power even as they provide a haven for narcotics production
and organized crime.

The Burmese junta known as the State Peace and Development Council
(formerly SLORC) remains locked in a civil war that has been waged in the
country's northeastern provinces for decades, opposed by the Mong Tai Army,
the Eastern Shan State Army, the Kachin Defense Army, and the so-called
Myanmar National Democratic Alliance - which field tens of thousands of
irregulars, heavily armed with automatic weapons and SAM-7 missiles.
Narcotics money keeps these separatist armies in business, and the junta
itself is too weak, too illegitimate, and too corrupt to put them out of

The Chinese government supports the Burmese junta for geopolitical reasons:
Burma provides a window to the Indian Ocean for China's military, and it is
a useful counterbalance to potentially hostile ASEAN states on China's
southern borders. ASEAN, despite its ambivalence about the junta and its
concern with the drug trade, has embraced Burma's military leadership as a
counterbalance to Chinese influence in Southeast Asia.

The United States, appalled by the junta's violent 1988 repression of
Burma's indigenous democratic movement and its imprisonment of
pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyl, has kept the junta at arm's length.
Yet the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) retains a
3-person liaison office in the Burmese capital of Rangoon. Officials in
Washington face a wrenching dilemma: Which is worse, the brutal junta or
the narcotrafficking separatist groups? Which is better, standing by the
human rights champions of Burma's democracy movement, or suppressing the
flow of heroin to American cities?

China remains central to Asia's narcotics problem, as it does to Asia's
other transnational problems, such as illegal migration and environmental
pollution, because of its sneer size and the turbulence of its
transformation from "hard" to "soft" authoritarian politics.

The Communist authorities in Beijing have long feared the triads as
potentially subversive organizations, a suspicion that goes back to 1927,
when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government used triad gangsters to
slaughter Communists. Since it came to power in 1949, the Communist Party
has taken a strong stand against narcotics, beginning with a nationwide
suppression campaign that detoxed 20 million addicts between 1950 and 1952.
Today the authorities in Beijing are deeply concerned about a recent
heroin plague and mounting disorder in southern provinces such as Yunnan,
Guangxi, and Guizhou. In 1992 the government sent People's Liberation Army
(PLA) troops with armored vehicles and tanks to regain control of the
border town of Pingyuan, which had been taken over by narcotraffickers.

However, China's economic growth since 1978 has been built on granting more
authority to the country's regions, especially the southern coastal
provinces. In the absence of the rule of law, and as the prestige and
legitimacy of the Communist Party decline, "local corporatism" -
interlocking interests between the local party apparatus, the local
administrative bureaucracy, and the local state security organs - has
become the de facto government in much of China. This creates an
environment in which criminal enterprise and narcotrafficking flourish.

Beijing finds it difficult to suppress China's growing narcotics business
with an iron fist. In addition to resistance from local corporatist
interests, the fist itself may be unreliable. Corrupt elements of the
Public Security Bureau and the PLA are widely involved in the drug trade.
Beijing's official tolerance of PLA involvement in private business has
tempted many officers with the quick profits to be made from narcotics
production and distribution. As China's senior party leaders compete to
solidify their personal networks of support among the PLA, cracking down on
military complicity in the drug trade is not an attractive policy option.

As a result, although low-level criminals are periodically arrested and
often executed as part of nationwide anticrime campaigns, these campaigns
rarely do much harm to the narcotics trade or higher-level traffickers. A
lack of faith in the integrity of Chinese law enforcement has made
cooperation with foreign law enforcement difficult.

This distrust is reciprocated; according to the United States State
Department's 1997 narcotics report, Chinese authorities refused to allow
the FBI and the DEA to establish offices in Beijing after an American court
"ordered the release of alleged Chinese drug trafficker Wang Zongxiao, who
had originally been escorted to the U.S. by Chinese police in 1989 to
testify as a witness on the understanding that he would return to China."

The Wang case is a classic example of the pitfalls that hinder both
bilateral and multilateral cooperation to solve transnational problems such
as narcotics. The legal and institutional bases for cooperation in law
enforcement are weak in Asia. For example, the United States lacks an
extradition treaty with many countries in the region, such as Burma and
Indonesia, and even where a treaty exists, as with Thailand, it requires
enormous pressure to extradite an alleged trafficker for trial in the
United States. Conversely few American judges are eager to entrust an
American citizen facing a drug charge to the tender mercies of Asian police.

=85AND MULTILATERAL ROADBLOCKS Bilateral attempts to deal with narcotics
are inevitably infused with bilateral tensions, and narcotraffickers can
easily elude bilateral crackdowns by slipping through third countries;
therefore much faith has been placed in the efficacy of multilateral
institutions to construct a common framework of policies to suppress demand
and interdict smugglers. The UN has passed a series of conventions and
protocols on narcotics, culminating in the UN International Drug Control
Program in 1991, which consolidated a variety of efforts. In 1996 the UN
also coordinated a memorandum on controlling the trade in narcotics
precursor chemicals and on trafficking with Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos,
Thailand, and Vietnam. Unfortunately funding for the UN programs has been
sparse, and few would argue that they have made much of a dent in Asia's
narcotics markets.

ASEAN has also dealt with narcotics, and the ASEAN ministers periodically
issue statements deploring the problem. A special ASEAN forum was created
to focus on the problem, but it has done little other than host regional
seminars on treatment and law enforcement. Lack of funding is one problem,
but a more serious roadblock is ASEAN's consensus decision-making style.
With some high officials in Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand compromised by
the narcotics trade, it is not difficult to see how ASEAN's progress on
narcotics would be glacial.

APEC has a similar problem. Its larger umbrella covers not only Asia's
drug-producing region also the big markets - China, Japan, and the United
States. Beijing has adamantly opposed expanding APEC's charter to deal with
problems such as narcotics for fear that other, more sensitive political
issues, such as Taiwan or the South Chin islands dispute, might make their
way onto the agenda.

Once narcotics become a multilateral agenda item, diplomats are not
comfortable with the topic. Narcotrafficking can be fairly technical, and
controlling it requires close cooperation between enforcement agencies,
which are rarely internationalist in any country. Nor does a diplomat want
to be "typed" as a narcotics specialist.

Moreover, there are few organized domestic constituencies to applaud
multilateral successes in narcotics control or to press governments to
negotiate multilateral agreements. The nongovernmwnt organizations (NGOS)
that have been vocal and frequently successful in lobbying for multilateral
agreements on the environment or for labor standards have been
conspicuously absent from the narcotics debate.

Many groups also oppose tough regulations to crack down on smuggling or
money launding, especially business firms whose shipping or financial
interests would be complicated by such regulations. Suppressing the supply
of narcotics in requires more government and more regulations, not less; it
requires movement against the current liberalization and deregulation that
has powerful advocates in the United States and Asia.

The apathy of officials, the silence of NGOs, and resistance from the
business community in the Asian narcotics debate reflect the deep
ambivalence toward drug policy that impedes solutions in Asia as well as in
the United States. What combination of supply and demand suppression will
be effective against the narcotics menace? Is it merely a fool's errand to
spend money and political capital on interdiction efforts if the underlying
demand for narcotics is so huge? Can demand suppression be dealt with
independently of problems such as illegal migration, poverty and poor
health care in the United States and Asia?

Finally are the Asian nations, authoritarian and liberal alike, prepared to
pay the price of interfering with free trade and finance that effective
interdiction will require, and - above all - declaring war on the criminal
syndicates that have so deeply twined themselves with Asian politics?

[1]These production and consumption figures are based on Stephen Flynn's
chapter, "Asian Narcotics: Rethinking the War," in James Shinn, ed., Fires
across the Water: Transnational Problems and Asian Politics (New York:
Council on Foreign Relations Press, forthcoming).

[2]See Flynn, op. cit.



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