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War on drugs. The cases of Colombia and Mexico. A tale of two epochs. Why colombia ?. But first, the business. Planting & harvesting the coca leaf (2 species & 2 varieties): US $3 dollar/kg Conversion of coca leaves into coca paste & coca base & cocaine: US $3.000 dollar/kg (from US $200)

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war on drugs

War on drugs

The cases of Colombia and Mexico

but first the business
But first, the business
  • Planting & harvesting the coca leaf (2 species & 2 varieties): US $3 dollar/kg
  • Conversion of coca leaves into coca paste & coca base & cocaine: US $3.000 dollar/kg (from US $200)
  • Smuggling & delivering to distributor in the US: US $18.000 dollar/kg
  • Distributor-dealer-user: US $200.000 dollar/kg
1976 1991 colombia as a cocaine kitchen hub
1976-1991: Colombia as a cocaine “kitchen” & hub
  • Colombian modest industrial & commercial capacity: apt for coca processing
  • People highly skilled in logistics: due to Colombian poor highways
  • Important Colombian community living in the US (Miami)
  • 1991: 25.000 hectares planted with coca
  • Private rationality overtakes collective responsibility
  • Lack of social capital (strong community & family & schools) that may help to prevent anti-social behavior

A weak Colombian state: unable to control territory; strong in economic management; impervious to popular demands.

  • The parallel economy factor (culture of illegality) in a closed economy that fostered quasi-illegal activities (smuggling & emeralds)
1991 2010 colombia as cocaine producer
1991-2010: Colombia as cocaine producer
  • 2000: 163.000 hectares
  • Successful eradication program in Peru: the balloon effect.
  • Birth of (complex) syndicated cartels and their fragmentation: the never ending explosion (The Medellin Cartel, The Cali Cartel, the North of Valle Cartel, ……)
  • Today: Colombia produces 70% of global cocaine
plan colombia 2000
Plan Colombia (2000)

Joint effort US-Colombia aimed to:

  • Reduce the production of illegal drugs (primarily cocaine) by 50% in 6 years
  • Improve security in Colombia by re-claiming control of areas held by illegal armed groups (leftish & right-wing!)
  • US spent US $4 billion; Colombia US $7 billion (1.5% GDP per year) between 2000-2006
  • Results: 50% reduction in coca crop acreage (now 80.000 hectares) but
  • Cocaine production: only 11% reduction (300 tons/year) & prices fairly stable
  • Why? More productive cultivation techniques

Mejia & Restrepo (2009)


Colombia has become a safer place due to curbing on drugs´ collateral business: kidnappings, extortion …. corruption …

  • Back to square one: Peru and Bolivia back to the market?

Since the late 1980: the main conduit for Colombian cocaine (and an active marihuana, heroin & methamphetamines producer)

  • December 2006: President Calderon declares war on drugs cartels
  • Why? A real threat or an attempt to posture as a though leader?
the contenders
The contenders
  • The Gulf Cartel (Matamoros, Tamaulipas) plus Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman (The Sinaloa Cartel, Culiacan), The Familia Cartel (Michoacan)


The Zetas (GC former armed wing, Tamaulipas)


The Ciudad Juarez Cartel,, The Beltran-Leyva Cartel (Sinaloa)

the results
The results
  • The US is helping a hand with the Merida Initiative: 1.4 billions multiyear (450 millions per year)
  • Death toll of 22.000 people dead in the entire country
  • Mayhem in the border: the case of Ciudad Juarez (and other cities, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa)
conclusions by mexicans
Conclusions (by Mexicans)
  • “The Mexican drug war is costly, unwinnable, and predicated on dangerous myths.” (Castañeda & Aguilar).
  • Mexico is not a failed state but is entangled in a failed war against drug cartels
  • The real problem: the captured state (at provincial level) by the mob!
an personal assessment
An (personal) assessment
  • A huge cost for Colombia: environmental degradation, corruption, violation of human rights, political, empowerment of criminals .
  • Drugs trafficking politically blind: leftish guerrilla (FARC) as the major cartel; the old right-wing paramilitary (new criminal gangs) as leading political actors (2010 elections).
and questions
And questions …
  • Is there any way to tackle or reduce the international demand for drugs?
  • Is there any winning strategy for Mexico apart from legalization of marijuana and heroin?
  • Is Colombia daring enough to open the international debate for legalization (in the near future)?
could anyone do anything in colombia
Could anyone do anything in Colombia?
  • The US Government is investing US $465 million per year.
  • The estimates is that US 1.5 billion per year reduces 20% in the amount of cocaine reaching consumer countries.
  • So, US $7.5 billion per year is needed for ever from American pursue. Is it feasible?