The Nature of the U.S.-Mexico Drug War: Equal Responsibility, Unequal Costs

“Drugs will be at the top of the agenda. It will dominate the agenda because the drug fight is all that Calderón talks about, all that he thinks about.” – Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s former Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

Trapped

Mexico is suffering. Thousands of its citizens are trapped in the unyielding currents of the drug war, unable to escape the relentless stream of violence, poverty, and despair tearing through the country. The drugs, the crime, and the acts of brutality flow in a complex cycle between neighbors: Mexico and its putative, half-sympathetic, and part-time North American collaborator, the United States.

Though both countries share responsibility for perpetrating the drug war, their respective roles within the conflict are sharply different. This is graphically evident in the death tolls connected to the Mexican phase of drug violence. Although one should recognize the tragedy of the seventy-nine United States citizens who have died due to drug violence in 2009, one should also realize that in the same year, Mexico, as reported by El Universal newspaper lost 7,724. For the United States, this war is an accelerating national security threat, but for Mexico, the extensive, violent system of drug cartels is an escalating national disaster.

Thus, Jorge Castañeda, for all his disservices to his nation, might have struck the nail on the head this time: drugs have been and will continue to be the main focus of President Calderón, and for good reason. Unlike the U.S., Mexico cannot compartmentalize the drug issue into a contained corner of its national agenda. The drug predicament permeates the boundaries that separate it from other national issues and can be found at the root of most of the country’s economic and social woes. It exists due to the policies and the easy rhetoric of both the U.S. and Mexico, yet the majority of the cost overwhelmingly falls on the shoulders of the latter. As it stands, Mexico is struggling with the burden of an inherent injustice while Washington episodically dabbles in an often misguided strategy that barely touches the perils suffered by its southern neighbor.

Economics 101

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the Drug Trafficking Organizations of Mexico and Colombia generate $17 billion to $38 billion every year. What’s more, this figure is rapidly increasing. Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations reports that in 1990, only 50% of the U.S.’s cocaine entered illegally from Mexico, while today, that figure has ascended to a troubling 90%. Such a drastic increase in illegal activity is occurring despite a corresponding increase in the Calderón administration’s crackdown against the massive cartel network. With these measures in place, the situation begs the question: What is causing such an unceasing growth in an illicit market whose eradication is the highest priority of hemispheric governance?

The answer lies in the simplest of economic fundamentals: supply and demand. As in any market-based industry, suppliers adjust the quantity produced to a price that is determined by competition and demand. When demand is higher, price goes up and the quantity produced increases. Furthermore, when demand for the product is inelastic, as is the case with addictive drugs, increases in price minimally affect the quantity desired, and this leads to augmented opportunities to increase profitability. Thus, the allure of a reliably lucrative industry with an enormous income potential will consistently outweigh the risks associated with the illegal operations that such a trade requires.

Therefore, while the pulse of the drug war runs rampant through the venation that stretches across the border, its heart lies principally in the United States. The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health completed in 2008 reveals that approximately 14.7% of individuals in the United States consume cocaine. This is up from 14.5% in 2007 and 13.8% in 2005. Demand inspires supply, and without it, the issue of the drug market would never have grown to the volume at which it currently registers. Yet although the war on drugs is inextricably linked to the United States, the challenge of constantly living with its disastrous consequences is faced primarily by Mexico, where tortured corpses are routinely uncovered and entire cities are put under siege.

The Cost of Fear

On top of the danger created by the drug cartels, the people of Mexico also suffer from the effects of a crumbling economy. Mexico has the second largest economy in Latin America and the thirteenth largest in the world, but its orthodox industries are strangled by the war on drugs. Reports of violence and the high cost of paying for security and damage control have greatly altered international perceptions of Mexico, especially in regards to tourism.

Mexico relies on tourism as its third most important enterprise after oil and remittances, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) ranks Mexico as tenth in terms of international tourist arrivals. Though the industry generated $11.3 billion in 2009, the UNWTO calculated the yearly growth from 2008 at -5.2%. Tourism is indeed one of the hardest hit of Mexico’s industries, a testament to the lethal effectiveness of the the daily gun battles that take over the country’s urban streets. Bloomberg Businessweek has quoted the chief economist at J.P. Morgan Chase in Mexico City, Gabriel Casillas, as saying, “Violence is having a significant impact. I’ve talked with investors who have had big projects in tourism and construction and they’ve decided not to do them.” Of course, tourist enterprises and a roster of pistoleros tend not to mix.

Furthermore, recent travel warnings by the U.S. State Department accompanied by gory reports in the media have discouraged U.S. and other international visitors from choosing Mexico as their tourist destination. The State Department’s “travel warnings” differ from the less condemning “travel alerts” because they recommend that U.S. citizens avoid an entire country altogether. Although the State Department has good reason to suspect that dangers such as felonious assaults and homicide could affect anyone south of the border, the Department’s action further illuminates the often unintended yet pervasive injustices that unfortunately define the troubled relationship between the two nations.

The text of the travel warning states, “While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well.” Mexican nationals not only endure the full reality of a drug war that continually engulfs new participants and often generates victims who are accidentally caught in the crossfire of drug attacks, they also have to confront crippling economic repercussions. Meanwhile, the United States, despite the fact that it shares a heavy responsibility in kindling the drug war, continues to demonstrate its ability to strategically avoid the bulk of the costs.

A War Declared

The violence that has reigned down upon Mexico as a result of the drug war has left immeasurable damage in its aftermath. Although the danger has only now begun to spill over into the southernmost U.S. border cities, the vast majority of the drug war occurs on the Mexican side of the line. Immense drug cartels span Mesoamerica from the east to the west coasts. The largest of these drug syndicates, the Sinaloa Cartel, encompasses much of the region along the Pacific coast as well as the U.S.-Mexico border from Tijuana to Ciudad Juaréz. In the northeast lies the Gulf Cartel, and violence has become increasingly lethal as these two networks and their smaller competitors grapple over territory and power.

Not only has violence intensified between and among cartels, but ever since President Calderón took office and the U.S. and Mexico introduced the Mérida Initiative, the conflict has been further propagated by the use of a dramatically enhanced combative approach. After Calderón’s inauguration in December of 2006, the new President immediately deployed 6,500 troops to the Pacific Coast region of Michoacán. Now, according to a World Policy Journal article by Tomas Kellner, the war on drugs involves 45,000 Mexican troops – in other words, a quarter of the country’s total armed forces has been committed to this heightened militarized strategy.

The United States has complemented this belligerent approach by instating the Mérida Initiative in October of 2007. Although recent adaptations to the plan have included the concept of increasing domestic efforts toward reducing the demand for drugs, the Department of State still intends for this agreement to be used mainly “to provide equipment and training to support law enforcement operations and technical assistance for long-term reform and oversight of security agencies.” In a Government Accountability Office Report to the U.S. Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs regarding the funding for Mérida, it is noted that “the annual counternarcotics and related law enforcement assistance to Mexico increased from about $57 million from 2000 through 2006 to $400 million for fiscal year 2008.” Now, in 2010, the government has pledged $450 million for the Initiative to continue much in the same vein.

Despite the fact that the increased support for the Mérida Initiative exemplifies a greater understanding by the U.S. of the responsibility it should share with Mexico in seeking a solution to the drug crisis, providing a modest amount of financial assistance to the armed forces of Mexico is both a small and rather misguided action. Its ineffectiveness is tied to the Calderón administration’s policy, but the negative consequences of the approach fall directly on the people of Mexico who have not viewed Mérida with great enthusiasm.

All Wars Bring Violence

Evidence of the ineffectiveness of using force as the principal means to contain the drug cartels can be seen in the path of violence over the past three to four years. Since Calderón began his armed campaign against the drug cartels, 23,000 individuals have perished. As reported by La Reforma newspaper, 2007 experienced a death toll of 2,274, and by 2008, that figure had vaulted to 5,207. Yet even these figures look modest in comparison to the 7,724 in 2009. To compare, the BBC reported the number of civilian deaths in Iraq at 4,497. This implies that he number of fatalities occurring just outside the U.S. border exceed those of war zones in the Middle East.

The problem with using military force is that it typically ends up disrupting cartel networks rather than eliminating them. When a cartel leader is removed from the system, rival and subordinate gang members rush to fill the void, causing power transitions that are inevitably fraught with violence. Furthermore, seeking to eradicate members and products of the drug world attacks a symptom of the problem rather than its core. Roderic Camp, a government professor at Claremont McKenna was quoted in a Bloomberg article saying, “I don’t see any end in sight. Citing how many drugs they seize or how many drug cartel leaders they kill, it just doesn’t alter the flow of drugs, which only can be altered by us.” This is indeed the reality; the U.S. cannot let itself believe that it is properly invested in the drug war simply because it sends a relatively modest sum of money that unintentionally finances the deaths of thousands of Mexican soldiers and civilians.

A recent LA Times article suggests a different approach to weakening the drug war currents. No individual possesses the power to curb the drug conflict. Based on this thesis, attacking the cartel leadership only multiplies the hydra’s heads rather than reducing it. The article quotes James Morton, a secretary of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who realizes, “Simply arresting people won’t be a full solution. We have to completely undermine the organizations as businesses, and to do this we have to identify, seize and forfeit their profits.” Although identifying the money flow will prove difficult in a cash-based economy, staunching the drug network depends upon taking such steps that will lead to more systematic and comprehensive changes. By striving to reduce demand for the product as well as denying suppliers access to cash, the profitability of the drug industry will decrease. At that point, the extreme risks members endure in order to play the market will no longer have high, predictable returns, thus rendering participation in the drug trade far less attractive.

A Ticking Clock

The increasing pervasiveness of the drug war continues to concentrate Mexico’s suffering. Its path of devastation weaves through the country in a route so complex and all-encompassing that no aspect of society remains unaffected. Mexico’s fate falls in the cold hands of economics that fuel the destructive drug market. Moreover, the nation that consistently pays for the consequences of the war is not the nation in which the heart of the problem lies. Without a completely coordinated and properly focused effort on the part of both Mexico and the U.S., no amount of sacrifice will ever be able to satiate the war’s appetite for destruction. What level of violence is required to cause the United States to reach its boiling point and finally recognize the nature of its responsibility in shaping a solution? The longer this realization takes, the more complex drug networks will have to become and the more both countries will have to pay in dollars and blood.

19 thoughts on “The Nature of the U.S.-Mexico Drug War: Equal Responsibility, Unequal Costs

  • June 9, 2010 at 7:35 pm
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    This article conveniently ignores the fact that 70% of Mexican drug profits come from Marijuana. Just allow Americans to grow their own and this is over. No more murders. No more torture. No more rapes. The solution is to legalize Marijuana Self Cultivation just like we do beer: no taxes, no regulation and no limitation. Marijuana is safer than Aspirin for goodness sakes. Please do an article on MERP, or publish on of my articles on the subject. Demand that every American sign the Petition so we can Re-Legalize in a matter of weeks. Here is the strategy to achieve this.
    http://www.newagecitizen.com/MERP/RelegalizeNowOb

    Reply
  • June 9, 2010 at 10:54 pm
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    Just change the name of the country: exactly the same applies to Guatemala, except, we don’t get even 1% of the budget of the so called "war on drugs" to be able to defend ourselves.

    We are the sandwich between Colombia and Mexico, but Guatemala is unimportant on the geopolitical chessboard, we are disposable, collateral damage, unimportant.

    Just like Laos during the Vietnam War. The US is destroying our country with the insane funding of Columbia and Mexico, and leaving us defenseless in the middle.

    The US Foreign Experts forgot to look on the map and notice that there where other countries between Colombia and Mexico.

    It is the typical screw up “a la gringo” and we pay the price with our lives and the lives of our families.

    We have stopped believing in US Foreign Policy a long time ago.

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    • June 10, 2010 at 1:10 am
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      Ok, if you have calmed down, here are some questions —

      Who would receive funds to fight the drug war? The Guatemalan government? The same one that is in bed with _____________ . So who would they fight then… I know! El Sindicato…

      Or, how about joint operations, the US forces and… the PNC? Hmmm… the Army?

      Even providing training would likely be counter-productive, when, like a bunch of ex-Kaibiles, these guys go off to sell their fancy new skills to the highest bidder, the last thing the isthmus needs is to spawn a Central American version of Los Zetas.

      Guatemala's problems predate the Mexican drug wars and originate here, inside Guatemala. The parallel organisations developed their methods during the armed internal conflict (and yes, that can be laid at the door of the US, along with other willing participants, Argentina, Israel, Taiwan) and the protagonists are Guatemalan. They control the state apparatus.

      It's very easy to write that the US is destroying Guatemala, but do you honestly believe that they could make a positive intervention here?

      Anyway, you've seen my objections, what form do you imagine it would take. I am willing to be convinced.

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        • June 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm
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          For your education, even Wikipedia has it:
          The 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état was a covert operation organized by the United States Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, the democratically-elected President of Guatemala. Arbenz's government put forth a number of new policies, such as seizing and expropriating unused, unfarmed land that private corporations set aside long ago and giving the land to peasants, that the U.S. intelligence community deemed communist in nature and, suspecting Soviet influence, fueled a fear of Guatemala becoming what Allen Dulles described as a "Soviet beachhead in the western hemisphere".[1]

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          • June 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm
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            Dulles' concern reverberated within the CIA and the Eisenhower administration, in the context of the anti-communist fears of the McCarthyist era. Arbenz instigated sweeping land reform acts that antagonized the U.S.-based multinational United Fruit Company, which had large stakes in the old order of Guatemala and lobbied various levels of U.S. to take action against Arbenz.[2] Both Dulles and his brother were shareholders of United Fruit Company.

          • June 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm
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            …….According to Kate Doyle, director of the Mexico Project of National Security Archives and a regular contributor to Americas Program of the Interhemispheric Resource Center, most historians now agree that the military coup in 1954 was the definitive blow to Guatemala's young democracy. Over the next four decades, the succession of military rulers would wage counter-insurgency warfare, destabilizing Guatemalan society. The violence caused the deaths and disappearances of more than 140,000 Guatemalans, and some human rights activists put the death toll as high as 250,000.[15] At the later stages of this conflict the CIA tried with some success to lessen the human rights violations and in 1993 stopped a coup and helped restore the democratic government.[16]

            Got it??

          • June 11, 2010 at 4:51 pm
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            Funny, but my Lca. at a Guatemalan University covered it, thanks.

            Schieber is furious about US involvement in Guatemala's history (which goes back more than a hundred years) and so her 'answer' is to take a lot of US $ to fight narcotraficantes, as if there is any such thing as a free lunch when sucking on Washington's greenback-spewing teat.

            Sad. And the woman herself, a lunatic.

          • June 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm
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            Mr Jason Kennedy, who posts as pinhut send me this very warm personal message:

            "Print it on a T-shirt you mad bitch."

            My public answer and I don’t need to resort to insults, is simple: He is definitively a gringo.

  • June 10, 2010 at 1:35 am
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    The drug issues are complex because we have managed to make them complex beginning with prohibition. A systemic analysis, call it holistic if you wish, will undoubtedly uncover the myths and the root causes of the problem. This is what A SILENT NIGHTMARE: The bottom line and the challenge of illicit drugs does. The book has been released in Spanish in Mexico just this week under the title UNA PESADILLA SILENCIADA: La esencia y el desafio de las drogas ilicitas. The Spanish edition contains an epilogue addressing the current drug situation in Mexico; it calls for a dialogue between the US, the world largest market for illicit drugs, and Mexico, the primary supplier, to come up with a proposal to the international community to decriminalize, regulate and control the production, distribution and use of what we know today as illicit drugs. This may sound trite to many, but somehow we need to put pressure on the authorities of both countries to develop the political will to grab this bull by the horns once and for all.

    Reply
  • June 10, 2010 at 1:47 am
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    Drug production, distribution and use:

    1. Are we to just to take these factors only:

    "The answer lies in the simplest of economic fundamentals: supply and demand. As in any market-based industry, suppliers adjust the quantity produced to a price that is determined by competition and demand."

    "Therefore, while the pulse of the drug war runs rampant through the venation that stretches across the border, its heart lies principally in the United States. The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health completed in 2008 reveals that approximately 14.7% of individuals in the United States consume cocaine. This is up from 14.5% in 2007 and 13.8% in 2005. Demand inspires supply, and without it, the issue of the drug market would never have grown to the volume at which it currently registers. Yet although the war on drugs is inextricably linked to the United States, the challenge of constantly living with its disastrous consequences is faced primarily by Mexico, where tortured corpses are routinely uncovered and entire cities are put under siege."

    2. Drug production, distribution and use – supply and demand: Why would Putin complain that under NATO command drugs were being produced & distributed within Russia?

    3. Would there be any DESINFO or CONTRINFO tone in Putin's mind?

    4. And opposite wards: Is Russia "clean" as to LA command of drug production & distribution?

    Reply
  • June 15, 2010 at 11:29 pm
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    Today I read the U.S. Department of Justice's National Drug Intelligence Center's report entitled "National Drug Threat Assessment 2010". I was looking for facts and figures on the number of deaths in the US corresponding to drug-related violence. To my surprise, this figure was not included in the report. Therefore, I wrote to the Center asking for this datum. If anyone has this figure, I would be very interested. Perhaps it has to be compiled from information from existing statistics on homicides in inner city Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, etc etc Surely someone has done this research. Could anyone tell me where this is available? Certainly, the information on drug-related violence in Mexico is readily available on thousands of websites and in thousands of widely-published reports. Where can I find the same information for the United States? I believe it is necessary in order for us to compare the situation of drugs and violence in the U.S. with the situation in Mexico. This would help us in our efforts to build solutions to the "threats" posed by illegal drugs across borders. Thanks for any intelligence on this.

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  • June 28, 2010 at 11:14 am
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    Re: United Nations' World Drug Report 2010:

    Who are investors that – contrary to supply & demand rules – "largely" stockpile opium (*) above global consumption???

    "Afghan production was still
    more than 150% higher in 2009 than in 1998. With
    strong increases after 2005, production seems to have
    well exceeded world demand and led to the creation of
    large stockpiles, but it is clear that the global opiate
    market has not been eliminated, or significantly reduced,
    since 1998"…

    (*): page 32 – http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/

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  • July 1, 2010 at 4:35 pm
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    http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20091021/wl_mcc

    Access on: 200910220143z

    MOSCOW — Afghan opium kills more people every year than any other drug on the planet, claiming up to 100,000 lives annually, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday.

    Although U.S. officials have pointed to the last two years of lower production in Afghanistan , the country still produces 90 percent of the world's opium, which the report says now threatens to sow havoc in much of Central Asia .

    "The catalog of casualties caused by Afghan narcotics is gruesome," Antonio Maria Costa , the executive director of the U.N. office on drugs and crime, says in a note in the report's summary. "We need to go back to the dramatic opium addiction in China a century ago to find comparable statistics."

    In addition to drug-related deaths, Afghan opium and heroin pay for weapons that anti-U.S. insurgents use to kill American troops.

    From 2005 to 2008, Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan earned an average annual income of some $125 million from the opium trade, not including money gained from drug-processing facilities or other related business in neighboring Pakistan , according to the report.

    The Afghan opium crop, used to produce heroin, dropped from 7,700 metric tons in 2008 to 6,900 this year, but because of massive overproduction there are now more than 12,000 metric tons of opium in stockpiles, enough to meet world demand for more than two years. Criminal and insurgent groups probably are holding most of those reserves, the U.N. said.

    The U.N.'s findings sounded a strong warning about the Central Asian opium-trafficking route, which has become a virtual conveyor belt for heroin between Afghanistan and Russia , referring to it as the "most sinister development yet."

    "The perfect storm of drugs, crime and insurgency that has swirled around the Afghanistan – Pakistan border for years is heading for Central Asia ," Costa said. "If quick preventive measures are not put into place, a big chunk of Eurasia could be lost."

    McClatchy published a series of articles earlier this year that traced the flow of opium from Afghanistan through Tajikistan — a main Central Asian conduit — to Russia .

    The articles found that Western inaction during the years after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan opened the way for Afghan opium to fuel corruption throughout Afghanistan , turn Tajikistan into a borderline narco-state and create thousands of new addicts in Russia .

    Russia is now the world's largest consumer of heroin, according to the U.N. report. At least 70 tons of Afghan heroin were consumed in Russia last year, the report says, more than three times the amount in the United States and Canada combined and higher than previous estimates.

    The number of addicts in Russia has multiplied 10-fold during the past decade, and there are now 30,000 to 40,000 Russian drug-related deaths each year, according to Russian government figures cited by the report. Official Russian news services have said that up to 30,000 of those deaths are due to Afghan heroin.

    Russian leaders repeatedly have voiced their anger about the lack of a Western crackdown on Afghan opium, and the issue was brought up during President Barack Obama's and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visits to Moscow this year.

    In May, the head of Russia's federal drug-control service, Viktor Ivanov , said that about 180 Afghan drug cartels were trafficking heroin to Russia .

    "The majority of these 180 drug cartels are based in the U.S. and NATO areas of responsibility," Ivanov said.

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  • July 1, 2010 at 4:41 pm
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    In a new report, Addiction, Crime and Insurgency:

    The Transnational Threat of Afghan Opium

    [http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2009/October/unodc-reveals-devastating-impact-of-afghan-opium.html],

    UNODC shows the devastating consequences that the 900 tons of opium and 375 tons of heroin that are trafficked from Afghanistan every year have on the health and security of countries along the Balkan and Eurasian drug routes, of countries in Europe, of China, India and the Russian Federation.

    It documents how the world's deadliest drug has created a market worth $65 billion, catering to 15 million addicts, causing up to 100,000 deaths per year, spreading HIV at an unprecedented rate and, not least, funding criminal groups, insurgents and terrorists.
    "We have identified the global consequences of the Afghan opium trade. Some are devastating, but expected; others seem surprising, yet they are very real. I urge the friends of Afghanistan to recognize that, to a large extent, these uncomfortable truths may be the result of their benign neglect", said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa at the unveiling of the new report.

    Large quantities of opium used, small quantities seized <—–

    The report's findings reveal a number of anomalies.

    *One such anomaly* is the incongruence between the large quantities of heroin being consumed and the small quantities being seized. Approximately 40 per cent of Afghanistan's heroin is trafficked each year into Pakistan, about 30 per cent enters the Islamic Republic of Iran and 25 per cent flows into Central Asia. In Afghanistan, corruption, lawlessness and uncontrolled borders result in an insignificant 2 per cent interception rate of the opiates produced, compared to 36 per cent in Colombia for cocaine.
    According to Mr. Costa, "the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region has turned into the world's largest free trade zone in anything and everything that is illicit – drugs of course, but also weapons, bomb-making equipment, chemical precursors, drug money, even people and migrants."
    Interdiction rates decline outside Afghanistan while drug values rise [1/3]

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  • July 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm
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    [2/3]

    The *second *anomaly exposed by the report is that outside Afghanistan, interdiction rates decline as the drugs move closer to lucrative and more opulent markets. While the Islamic Republic of Iran intercepts 20 per cent of the opiates crossing its territory and Pakistan 17 per cent, Central Asian States intercept just 5 per cent and the Russian Federation a meagre 4 per cent. Countries of South-Eastern Europe, including European Union member States like Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, intercept less than 2 per cent of their opiate trade.

    "Seizing Afghan opium where it is produced is infinitely more efficient and cheaper than trying to do so where it is consumed", said Mr. Costa, calling for more resources to tackle the problem at its source – in Afghanistan and its surrounding area. "This is not just a shared responsibility: it's hard-headed self-interest", said Mr. Costa.

    Taliban making more money today that 10 years ago

    *A third anomaly is the significant increase in the drug money made* by the Taliban today compared to the amount it was making in the 1990s, when it was in power. In Addiction, Crime and Insurgency, UNODC documents that a decade ago the Taliban earned $75-100 million per year by taxing opium poppy cultivation. Since 2005, the Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan have derived $90-160 million per year just from taxing opium production and trade (a tithe known as ushr).

    "Newly born narco-cartels in and around Afghanistan are blurring the difference between greed and ideology. Some profiteers in the heroin trade wear suits and white collars, other wear black turbans", said the head of UNODC. "Many of these drug barons, with links to insurgency, are known to Afghan and foreign intelligence services. Why have their names not been submitted to the Security Council, as required by resolutions 1735 and 1822, in order to ban their travel and seize their assets?"

    Double nature of the Afghan drug flows

    The double nature of the Afghan drug flows is sometimes forgotten. There are the physical quantities (tons of opium and heroin), that cause havoc to health in consuming nations: law enforcement concentrates on these flows. Then there are the value flows, the money made by criminals and insurgents involved in the illicit drug trade. "The perfect storm of drugs and terrorism that has struck the Afghan/Pakistan border for years, may be heading towards Central Asia. A big part of the region could be engulfed in large-scale terrorism, endangering its massive energy resources", warns the head of UNODC.

    [Continues on 3/3]

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  • July 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm
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    [ 3/3]

    More deaths from drugs at home than on the battlefield

    Surprising as it may seem, the human cost of addiction in consuming countries is higher than the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan's opium poppy fields. For example, in NATO countries, the number of people who die of heroin overdoses every year (more than 10,000) is five times higher than the total number of NATO troops that have been killed in Afghanistan in the past eight years.

    More supply than demand

    An anomalous but widely known fact is that, since 2006, much more opium has been produced in Afghanistan than is consumed worldwide. The report confirms that there is now an unaccounted stockpile of 12,000 tons of Afghan opium – enough to satisfy more than two years of world heroin demand. "With so much opium in evil hands, the need to locate and destroy these stocks is more urgent than ever", said Mr. Costa.

    *A final anomaly concerns the illicit drug trade and consumption*: the numbers just do not add up. For instance India, despite having 800,000 addicts, does not report any inflow of raw opium: either vast quantities of domestic (licensed) production are diverted, opium poppy is being cultivated illicitly in India, or some of the Afghan opium is reaching the subcontinent.
    Governments need to address all links in the chain
    Addiction, Crime and Insurgency offers a perspective that is both deeper in scope and broader in geographical coverage than earlier UNODC work on Afghanistan. "The numbers are scary", said Mr. Costa, "Even more frightening is the fact that Governments have not recognized that they can only tackle this threat by addressing all links in the chain: assistance to farmers to reduce supply, drug prevention and treatment to curb demand, and law enforcement against intermediaries."

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