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Thursday, March 16, 2006
Leavin’ on a Jet Plane, Don’t Know When I’ll be Back Again…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:44 pm

Speaking of extraditing Colombian drug traffickers (via Reuters): Suspected Colombian drug lord extradited to US

A suspected Colombian drug kingpin said to have smuggled $100 million worth of cocaine and heroin into the United States has been extradited to New York to face charges, federal officials said on Thursday.

Julio Cesar Lopez-Pena, arrested in Colombia last year, was extradited to the United States on Wednesday over racketeering and narcotics importing charges, the Drug Enforcement Administration said in a statement.

Filed under: War on Drugs, Colombia | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Mexico to Extradite Drug Lords to US
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:49 am

Via CNN: Mexican drug lords to face U.S. trials, Fox says

Mexico will begin extraditing drug lords wanted in the United States within weeks and expects a violent backlash from the powerful cartels, President Vicente Fox said on Wednesday.

Fox told Reuters the legal process of handing over traffickers on the U.S. government’s list had begun.

This is interesting, if anything because it echoes a similar path taken by Colombia over time during the drug war: using extradition to the US of suspected drug traffickers as a tool in the drug fight (as well as a means to placate the US).

The extradition issue is a complex one that intersects the issue of national sovereignty. While most Americans’ first response to such issues is, no doubt, that we are simply better equipped to dispense justice than the Mexicans, it is understandably difficult for Mexico to see it that way-especially since these individuals committed a large number of crimes within Mexico. (And, of course, there is no doubt that the US judicial system is superior to that of Mexico, and our level of corruption far lower-not to mention it is easier for Mexican cartels to intimidate judges within their own country).

At any rate, extradition always has a political dimension that taps into issues of national pride.

In the Colombian case from the 1980s to now, we have gone through differing periods regarding extradition, from cooperation to lack of cooperation (including, for a time, the declaration that the practice was unconstitutional). Currently the Uribe administration has been the most cooperative with the US on this count.

The violence issue is another key issue: the traffickers in question don’t want to be extradited, so are often willing to ratchet up the violence considerably so as to create political pressure in opposition to the process. Certainly this was the case in Colombia in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Given that the main nexus of the illicit drug industry has shifted to Mexico, it will be intriguing to watch how this develops.

Filed under: Global Politics, War on Drugs, Elections | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Leavin’ on a Jet Plane, Don’t Know When I’ll be Back Again… linked with [...] 7;t Know When I’ll be Back Again… By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:44 pm Speaking of extraditing Colombian drug traffickers (via Reuters): Suspected Colombian drug lord extradited to [...]
Monday, March 13, 2006
That’s Just Wrong
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:54 pm

Woman Caught With Cocaine In Armpits

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

The Florida Masochist linked with Did she use her Secret?
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Condi and Coca Guitar
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:14 am

Via Reuters: Bolivia’s Morales, Rice discuss coca policy

Bolivia’s new president, Evo Morales, discussed his country’s fight against illegal drugs on Saturday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and then gave her a guitar decorated with coca leaves.

The horror!

And, amusing:

He said Rice had strummed the lacquered Bolivian instrument but it was unclear whether the top U.S. diplomat could take it home because of U.S. customs laws.

Somehow, I think it will make it home.

In all seriousness, this is an interesting trip, and a positive one, given Morales’ rhetoric during the campaign and my concern that the US administration would take that rhetoric too seriously, especially given the concern over a Morales-Chavez friendship.

The development of the US-Bolivia relationship over the next several years will be interesting, especially since US pressure on coca cultivation in Colombia is likely to increase the incentives for illicit cultivation in Bolivia coupled with Morales’ view the licit coca cultivation should be unmolested.

Further, the degree to which Bolivian ties to Venezuela deepen with will be of issue, however, Bolivia, which is quite poor, needs its ties to the US, and, as such, I do not see Bolivia becoming uncooperative with US policy.

Filed under: Global Politics, Latin America, War on Drugs | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Plea Bargain in Cali Cartel Case
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:06 pm

William Rodríguez Abadía, the son of Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, one of the two main leaders of the Cali Cartel, has accepted a plea bargain in a Miami court, and will testify against his father, and his uncle, Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela.

It should make for some intriguing testimony.

Rodríguez Abadía took over the operation of the Cali Cartel in 1995 when the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers were arrested.

Source: El Tiempo: William Rodríguez Abadía declarará contra su padre y su tío, jefes del cartel de Cali

Thursday, March 2, 2006
That’s Just Wrong
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:53 pm

Via KVBC in Las Vegas: Seven year old brings cocaine to school

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, February 23, 2006
And You Thought Weeding Your Garden was Work…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:22 pm

Via the CSM: Pulling Colombia’s coca by hand

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
SCOTUS Allows Hallucinogenic Tea
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:33 am

Via WaPo: Supreme Court OKs Hallucinogenic Tea

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God.

Justices, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church’s religious practice. Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision.

Interesting. I always find these types of ruling intriguing, as the question arises as to whether it is simply the religious element that trumps the existing drugs laws or is it the controlled usage of the tea or what. Ultimately what is the real difference between some guy who likes to drink hallucinogenic tea in his house on weekends versus these folks?

Filed under: War on Drugs, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Marijuana: Top Ten Commodity in Washington State
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:20 pm

Via the San Diego Union-Tribune Washington marijuana harvest sets dubious record

Law enforcement officers harvested a dubious record last year: enough marijuana plants to rank the illegal weed as Washington state’s No. 8 agricultural commodity, edging sweet cherries in value.

The 135,323 marijuana plants seized in 2005 were estimated to be worth $270 million – a record amount that places the crop among the state’s top 10 agricultural commodities, based on the most recent statistics available.

And just think of the the tax revenues and the money into the legitimate economy (not to mention the dollars spent on law enforcement that would be saved) if you let the goofballs who want to smoke the stuff, smoke the stuff…

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
US-Colombian Trade Talks
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:37 am

Via the FT: Uribe heads to US to salvage free trade negotiations:

Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s president, is expected to roll up his shirt sleeves in Washington on Wednesday on a high-stakes mission to personally salvage stalled but crucial free trade negotiations with the US.

[…]

Peru signed a free trade deal with the US in December, while a pact between Central America, the Dominican Republic and the US was approved last year. Bogotá’s warm relations with the Bush administration, which views the Uribe government as its leading Latin American ally in the arena of security and anti-narcotics co-operation, have not paved the way for smooth negotiations

The FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) one-piece-at-a-time process continues-although I doubt that a true Americas-wide free trade zone is likely in the near term.

The relationship between US farm subsidies and US anti-narcotics policy in Colombia is noteworthy:

Talks that began in 2004 stalled at the end of last year amid rising opposition from Colombian farmers who fear a flood of US subsidised agricultural goods would jeopardise jobs. Agreement is important because existing US trade preferences to steer farmers away from illegal drugs crops expire at the end of the year, and their renewal in Congress is not guaranteed.

Andrés Pastrana, Colombia’s ambassador to the US, said Mr Uribe’s priority would be to seek an agricultural agreement that would prevent a reversal of hard-won successes in the war on drugs.

Since part of the strategy of coca eradication is crop substitution, anything that might send agricultural prices downward significantly could damage an already precarious program.

I am not especially sanguine that crop substitution is a viable solution to the cocaine problem, but certainly subsidized farm products coming from the US could jeopardize whatever gains have been made. Of course, it also leads to the question of why we continue to subsidize farm products if those products could be produced more cheaply abroad and imported to our markets. That would help US consumers and the economies of developing states. And, of course, if developing economies improve, they become more capable of buying US products. Further, the more developed an economy, the more stable the state and the less likely that political extremism is to develop.

As a side note: Pastrana was Uribe’s predecessor as President, although they were not direct political rivals in 2002, since at the time it was unconstitutional for a president to seek a second term, they were members of different political parties. Certainly the notion of appointing as ambassador to one’s most significant foreign partner a former president from a different party would not be likely in the US context.

Friday, February 10, 2006
Antidepressants and Treatment for Cocaine Abuse
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:00 pm

Interesting (via Reuters): Wellbutrin plus reward helps cocaine users cut back

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, February 9, 2006
Italy Tightens the Screws on Marijuana Use
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:25 am

Via the BBC: Italy approves new marijuana law

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, February 7, 2006
Charting the Drug War
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:49 pm

Here’s a sobering chart that show the ineffectiveness to date of our coca-eradication policies:


Source: Blueprint for a New Colombia Policy [PDF]

Again: the purpose of the policy of crop eradication is to constrict supply and drive up price. Now, several things are interesting from the graph. First, as spraying increases, so too does cultivation. Second, price has been on a downward trend as spraying has increased. Third, 2003 was the first year that spraying outpaced cultivation. As such, there may be raise in price as the effects of the supply constrictions filters through-indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that this is case. Although, as I have noted before, the evidence appears mixed.

Also, it is noteworthy that the 1995 price was near $180/gram and the 2003 price a little over $100/gram. In 1995 there was very little spraying, so even an increase of 80% of price will only take us back to where we were before we spent billions-and it isn’t as if the 1995 price levels were enough to substantially dissuade usage. Indeed, CNN reported last year that the price was at $170/gram-substantially higher than 2003, but still not to the 1995 levels.

However, even if price ticks upward, two key questions remain: will they trend upward enough to actually constrict demand and are we really getting value for the policy dollar here?

In a related story I noted earlier today (via CNN/the AP): 7 killed as they root out coca in Colombian park

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Friday, February 3, 2006
Sheer Genius
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:17 pm

Via the Orlando Sentinel, Police: Man offered crack to officer in uniform

The Orlando man is accused of offering to sell crack cocaine to a uniform Orange County deputy sitting in a marked patrol car.

Garibay, 34, walked up to Deputy Ed Johnson at a Mobil gas station on Old Winter Garden Road and asked him if he was straight, according to arrest records.

“Do you know what that means,” Garibay asked when the deputy responded that he is straight. “No. It means do you want to buy some cocaine.”

Thinking the tall, 340-pound man was joking, Johnson said, yes, he wanted to buy some dope. That’s when Garibay pulled out a plastic bag containing “several pieces of flat white rocks substances” and asked for cash, records show.

Sometimes story defy commentary.

Filed under: War on Drugs, Criminal Justice | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, February 2, 2006
Tales from the Drug War
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:28 pm

Late last year it was reported that cocaine seizures in Colombia had been especially successful (see here) and crop eradication has been marginally successful, depending on how one wishes to define the term (to be honest, by my definition, it hasn’t been too successful-and no, I am not being flip). As a result, it was noted that all this had lead to increased street prices for cocaine. This is the crux of the eradication policy-drive the price to the level needed to dissuade purchase by users. Of course, we aren’t sure what that price level, and we haven’t been especially successful at figuring out what it might be, let alone getting price to that level (and again, not flip, but yes, somewhat sarcastic).

It would appear that whatever gains have been made haven’t made it to Vail, Colorado: Cocaine cheaper, easier to get, cops say

The cost of cocaine per ounce has decreased from $1,200 to $700, McWilliam said.

“Cocaine is getting cheaper everyday. That tells me there is more of it and it is easier to get a hold of,” says McWilliam.

And so the story continues. I am no fan of cocaine, but one thing continues to grab my attention-the US is spending billions of dollars and not getting anything in return for the drug war policies we are pursuing.

(BTW-they need to learn how to spell Colombia in Vail…).

Interestingly, the topic of whether our drug war policies are especially efficacious was the topic of a Chicago Tribune story today:

Six years after the U.S. initiated an anti-narcotics program in Colombia, American policymakers and experts are at odds over whether the effort has significantly reduced the supply of cocaine reaching U.S. shores.

Since 2000, the U.S. has poured more than $4 billion into Plan Colombia, a program that has provided everything from police training to Black Hawk helicopters to a nation that supplies 90 percent of the cocaine and much of the heroin used in the United States.

U.S. officials say that intensive fumigation of Colombia’s cocaine-producing crops has reduced cocaine production and, for the first time in recent years, caused a squeeze in supplies and a jump in the price of cocaine in the United States.

Of course, the Vail story above contradicts this conclusion. It is possible that the supply effects haven’t hit that market as yet. Still, the question remains: even if price does go up, will it go up enough to get enough people to quit to make the whole thing unprofitable for drugs traffickers and pushers? That is highly unlikely. It isn’t as if the pusher is losing out if the price of an ounce of cocaine goes from $700 to $2000.

Yes, hectares under cultivation have been lowered, but we have hit a plateau, it would seem, and even if a slight spike in price has occurred, it clearly hasn’t been enough to stop the cocaine market:

U.S. officials say fumigation has cut Colombia’s crop of coca-a bushy plant that provides the raw material for cocaine-from an estimated 419,406 acres in 2001 to 281,209 acres in 2003.

But the number of acres under coca cultivation rose slightly in 2004, and one UN expert predicted the size of the crop would remain roughly stable in 2005.

“If it has not leveled off, we are very close to that,” said Sandro Calvani, who heads the Colombia bureau of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

While Wood acknowledged the area under coca cultivation remained flat in 2004, he said fumigation continues to diminish Colombia’s drug output because it targets larger, mature coca plants that have a higher yield.

Nevertheless, Calvani said U.S. and Colombian authorities must spend far more money on providing jobs and other assistance to coca farmers to lure them away from the illegal trade.

Billions of dollars have been spent, and who knows how many man hours used, not to mention the number of tons of herbicide that have been dumped-all to what is ultimately a very small effect. It is time to have a serious debate about these policies, but such a debate is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
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