<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and Drugs: A Perverse Omission?

At Least One Economic Faction Wants Drugs Legalized but Monopolized In the Hands of Multinational Corporations

By José Mirtenbaum Kniebel
Reporting from Bolivia

October 22, 2004

NOTE: This article was published in Spanish on the website Mama Coca in September, 2003. This translation, by Narco News, appears courtesy of the author.

Colombia has been receiving $1.7 billion US dollars in support from the United States since 2000, and has become the third largest recipient of American military aid, widening the fight against drugs into a counterinsurgency struggle. [1] Behind this ample funding is the hope that the entire Andean Community (CAN in its Spanish initials; a political bloc consisting of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela) will ascribe to a final solution toward the “eradication” of the millions of coca bushes in the region, [2] as well as a “negotiated exit” for groups involved in organized cocaine trafficking, or, in the case of Colombia, those involved in armed insurrection. The coca growers of the Andes are now passing automatically into the category of “terrorists” in the United States’ new war lexicon.

With this new perspective on the problem of the “War on Drugs,” it seems that the major factor in the “Plan Colombia” aid program is the military component. This component would go toward the armed suppression of “narco-guerrillas,” “terrorists,” and any other group associated with the production of “controlled” substances listed in the annex to the 1988 U.N. Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs, although, the American military presence in the Amazon also answers to economic interests in exploiting local biodiversity and oil reserves.

If one were to perform a demographic census in the Americas, we would see that the peasant-farmers involved in growing coca, cannabis, and opium poppy in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Jamaica, Brazil, Paraguay – even farmers in Canada and the U.S. who are considered enemies under drug war doctrine – number in the millions. On a global level, one must recognize the existence of even more farmers who cultivate the raw materials for the synthesis of controlled substances.[3] This is the perverse omission from globalization’s financial planners, when they turn a blind eye to what I call the “transverse vector” of high-traffic capital accumulation – and what others call “money laundering.” Recent years, however, have seen studies into the possibilities of breaking with the tradition of banking secrecy and working to fix a financial system in crisis.

Until now, the failure of the drug war doctrine [4] in Latin America has cost American taxpayers around $17 billion US dollars per year, a figure that corresponds approximately to the needs of the U.S. weapons industry – although this figure has also probably substantially increased with the introduction of high technology. But consider the following: “The 1994 UN World Ministerial Conference on Transnational Organized Crime (10 years ago!) estimated international drug trafficking to be at around $500 billion US dollars annually, that is to say, more than the global petroleum industry.” [5]

If we assume, for the sake of argument, that twenty percent of this capital flow, $100 billion, corresponds to the amount spent on consumption by the twelve to twenty million “recreational” cocaine users in the United States (a 1990 estimate), and further assume that this figure does not include users in the urban centers of Latin America, we could probably say that total cocaine consumption in the Americas is close to $150 billion.

On the other hand, it has become officially accepted that the economy of the coca-cocaine complex yields some $500 million dollars annually into Bolivian bank accounts – 0.3 percent of our overall figure. As such, Bolivia is an unimportant country within the global structural economy of the drug trade. And so a question arises: what is so important about the Bolivian Chapare that it interests repressive agencies such as the DEA? The answer is the high value of the biodiversity and hydrocarbon sources located in this region, and the need to clear the way for transnational capital. One should also not discount the investment possibilities that lie in the future legal trade of Bolivian coca leaves. Under this logic, one should also consider that the Chapare is a good ecosystem for the cultivation of cannabis, and could represent a high yield for the world marijuana market. [6]

Free Trade for Drugs?

A controversial document written up between 1989 and 1990 by five ultra-liberal political consultants (conservatives – if we speak in European political language – close to U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) vehemently promoted the expansion of a policy of unbridled neoliberalism in Latin America. In this text, known as the “Santa Fe II” document, the authors give free reign to an ideology of reckless postmodern political economy to justify the imposition of savage capitalism, a system that preys upon the continent’s natural resources and exploits its cheap labor. Their theories arose from a model of “economic development” based on “freedom,” as brought by the invisible hand of Adam Smith [7] and the market that pervaded his Anglo-Saxon mind.

The results of this predatory tendency found their best collective expression among the young executives of the “light” generation of the 1980’s. These people can still be found in the halls of Wall Street and its derivative stock exchanges here in Latin America. Their financial wrongdoings consisted of buying and selling successful companies on the stock exchange, and then destroying them with Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.” This generation shocked the old military/postindustrial complex [8] in the United States. It was a financial army designed to accumulate fast-moving speculative capital, without a moment’s consideration for the sociological effect it might have on the daily lives of these companies’ workers.

Among the five members of the Santa Fe II group was a man named Lewis Tambs. Tambs has the dubious honor of having christened the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other insurgent groups as “narco-guerrillas,” from the window of his comfortable Cessna as he flew over the Colombian combat zones. The document these men produced is known as Santa Fe II [9] in reference to the city where it was written (one should perhaps not reflect too much on the religious consequences of the name, which is Spanish for “Holy Faith”), and had a limited circulation among experts in the geopolitics of drugs. [10] At the time, the document proposed the basis for the “free market,” unleashing the unrestricted “freedom” of transnational capital flows, which we see today in the World Trade Organization’s closed economic programs, forcing the Latin American population to comply with the demands of the legal, political, and economic structure of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). [11]

In fact, nation-states’ sovereignty [12] is completely violated by the terms of this deal. While the FTAA falsely assumes equal conditions among signatory countries, it also presents this free trade “area” as a great tool for development, to the extent that the Latin American people will be the recipients of North American technological know-how and capital.

The Sante Fe II document – using the nearly evangelistic language that Max Weber described in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism – abandons all and moral or ethical considerations, as does the current FTAA protocol. Both documents – one theoretical, the other a group’s consensus for a future agenda – propose an openly imperial unilateral policy for the United States, one which we see consolidated today in coercive demands related to “free” trade for “Americans” and completely restricted trade for “Latin American” nations.

But the most surprising thing about Sante Fe II lies in a section that proposes examining the possibility of gradually introducing the legalization of drug consumption. It refers very subtly to cannabis and cocaine, two substances whose consumption has essentially become accepted as a fact of life in most urban societies of North and South America. The authors propose that the legalization of consumption be accompanied by education on drug prevention and rehabilitation.

Of course, the Santa Fe II document touches only on consumption and not on production. The question then arises, who would produce the cannabis and cocaine for the massive consumption of a population bound together by the FTAA? The Peruvians? The Bolivians? The Colombians? The Mexicans? Or the farmers and migrant workers of California, Texas, and the tobacco-producing states?’

In short, both Santa Fe II and the proposed FTAA agreement put forth the principle of a continental economic citizenry, enriched by the cheap labor of Latin America and within the U.S. itself.[13] The intensive capital of U.S. corporations in Anglo hands would be the most massive engine of capital accumulation ever seen in the history of modern capitalism.

On the other hand, if we seriously take into account a position for the legalization of drug consumption, then the North American and Latin American “citizen” workers of the Free Trade Area of the Americas obtain the “inalienable” right [14] to a small, occasional dose of psychotropic “recreation” as the most inexpensive “treatment” for spiritual madness in an environment of uncreative urban labor.[15] This move toward drug decriminalization has its origins in the increased marijuana use of the Vietnam generation. That is, for all practical purposes, the consumption of “soft” drugs has already been decriminalized in the daily lives of these people.

During the industrial revolution, we would be talking in similar terms about the utility of high sugar consumption among the English working class.[16] In the end, this could be a great deal for the pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, which have had the introduction of packs of marijuana “joints,” at a price within the reach of workers’ wallets, prepared for more than thirty years. This would also lead to savings in costly public drug prevention and rehabilitation programs, as well as a generous taxation system for governments run by the military/postindustrial complex.

Coca is, in fact, already widely consumed in the Coca-Cola we all drink so innocently. Its industrialization could be widened, allowing for a new secret recipe, such as the one used between 1880 and 1914, that would finally make Coca-Cola a real “spark of life.”

Other uses could include coca chewing-gum, a product already developed in the U.S. by NASA. In the face of an economic plan in search of well-designed alternative sources of capital accumulation, the problem becomes how to take control of the raw material and its production. The obvious answer is through eradication of the coca plant and the peasant-farmers who produce it, privatizing land ownership, and expanding the cultivation of coca into other countries with a less-organized peasantry that could be hired as farmworkers.

Pure cocaine could be developed by the pharmaceutical companies for use by the business class. White-collar workers could come back from drinking on their lunch breaks with a certain extra clarity, minimizing the effects of alcohol with a small dose of cocaine.

This capitalist cultural phenomenon of high drug use has been an open “secret” since 1980, and can often be seen among high-ranking executives in New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Bogotá, Lima, São Paulo, etc. – that is, all those cities where stocks are being traded, and where there is no time for a coffee break. [17]

However, the ideological spirit of Santa Fe II not only proposes an imperial political economy for a “brave new world” [18]; it also promotes political restructuring designed to prevent any attempt to return to a state-administered economy that puts a priority on social spending. Ironically, the U.S. would not be the empire it is today without its enormous statist system, which maintains public spending through a military budget much higher than the combined gross national products of several Latin American countries.

We all know that the problem of severe poverty in Latin America can only be solved with well-defined actions on the part of states free of corrupt middlemen, able to make massive investments in education and health-care, and able to redistribute the wealth now concentrated among the hands of a few.

Nevertheless, the Sante Fe II document considers the Latin American military to be the only “stable” institution in the region, given its strong identity, sustainability, and perpetual alliance to big capital. By extension, it dismisses Latin American political parties as unreliable for the purposes of implementing a “coercive” free trade economy, given their populist ideologies.

In any case, the general tone of this strange document suggests a number of measures to impose the doctrine of “economic liberalism” on countries that traditionally favor a welfare economy administered by an honest and sovereign State. As contemporary capitalist neoconservative thinkers always do, it makes the principle of “individual liberty” out to be synonymous with political “democracy.” [19]

The FTAA and Its Relationship to the War on Drugs

Consider that beginning on September 11, 2001, after the destruction of the World Trade Center, the U.S. government has chosen to systematically violate the most basic constitutional principles of its own citizens, in the interest of “national security.” The fact the the system’s “enemies” are now inside American territory has provoked a request from the FBI, approved by presidential decree, that permits it and other agencies (the majority of them in some way connected to drug control) to arrest any citizen without a warrant or judge’s order, and to detain that person for more than forty-eight hours. In other words, the limits placed on repressive agencies “enforcing the law” with coercive measures have been lifted. The racist component of this comes out if one’s skin color or hair is similar to that of an Afghan, Palestinian, Semite or Latin American. The principle of “innocent until proven guilty” has been replaced by stigmatization and scapegoating.

Since the fateful events of September 11, U.S. citizens are required to carry identification at all times. The valve of immigration has been closed by a much stricter control along the new Berlin Wall: the U.S. – Mexican border. Well, all right, now the North American people can feel a bit of what the Latin American people have felt every day under the regimes that the U.S. government has supported, regardless of the regime’s political character. Welcome, citizens of the FTAA, to the true legal norms of the Empire.

From another, more troubling perspective, “drug trafficking” and “terrorism” have been joined together in public discourse [20], creating the legal space for subtle and ambiguous repression. This allows for dangerous accusations to be thrown out interchangeably, depending on the political circumstances or how one wishes to eliminate a political enemy. For the purposes of the “free market,” Evo Morales could be considered a “narco-trafficker” or a “terrorist,” according to which criminal profile the accuser wants to paint before a crowd that understands little of the legal, economic, and social details of the interrelation between the free market and the legal system of stigmatization. The same could happen to any other coca grower who puts his life on the line defending his right to a k’atu (a small garden) of coca and rejecting forced eradication. Or to a Mexican farmer who grows cannabis to survive.

In this sense, the Chapare and other areas full of small farmers producing the raw materials for drug production have become “spaces for terror,” [21] and, at the same time, a space for “narco-traffickers.” By extension, they are also also considered “free territories” to be conquered and “liberated” from “affliction” according to the logic of the war on drugs. This is all the beginning of a process in which the empire convokes the doctrine of “Homeland Security” throughout the continent before it incorporates 800 million inhabitants.

Taking this territorial approach into account, let us examine the points of reference of the FTAA that demonstrate a situation whose “entrance exam” [22] for the world of “free trade” looks like the following:

The Law for Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication (ATPDA) conditions, 1990-2000: [23]

Your response should be YES to be approved:

  • Have you been certified in the war on drugs?

Your answer should be NO to be approved:

  • Are you a communist country?
  • Have you taken or expropriated property from any U.S. citizen?
  • Have you illegally violated or annulled any contract with an U.S. citizen or company, or violated his or its intellectual property rights?
  • Have you imposed taxes or conditions on any U.S. company that implies, in essence, expropriation?
  • Have you pointed out a mistake in a trial where a U.S. citizen won?
  • Have you given preference in trade to a third country over the commercial interests of the United States?
  • Have you demonstrated satisfactorily to the United States that that you will grant access to your markets and basic resources?
  • Have you generally followed the accepted rules for international trade under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)?
  • In the field of international commerce, have you eliminated the use of subsidies, performance or content requirements, which might distort trade?

But then comes the “entrance exam” directly related to the simultaneous “war on drugs and terrorism”:

ATPDEA: new conditions beginning 2002:

Your answer should be YES to be approved:

  • Are you assuming your responsibilities under the World Trade Organization?
  • Are you actively participating toward closing the FTAA or other free trade agreements?
  • Are you applying non-discriminatory procedures in your public spending policies?
  • Are you taking measures to support U.S. efforts in the fight against terrorism?

If this “entrance exam” is not clear as the air we breath, then we have some serious problems understanding the formal economic intentions of the FTAA. What concerns us in this critical document lies in correctly perceiving poorly-defined economies, considering that capital flowing from the spheres of production to consumption of cannabis and cocaine, together with legal drugs, probably surpasses capital flows in hydrocarbons.

But where is the economist who will carry out a serious study, based in science or social science, that will allow us to see the full economic dimensions of, for example, the full input/output of the sale of aspirin/viagra/marijuana/cocaine/alcohol/tobacco among the members of the FTAA between the ages of 10 and 85 – a population of around 800 million people. Perhaps it is time we looked at the true dimensions of a capital flow directly associated with what was defined in 1989 as “organic added value.”

For more than fifteen years, those of us dedicated to study the “clandestine” social economics of legal and illegal drugs have been unable to find even one attempt to seriously evaluate the true dimensions of the “psychotropic economy” of big pharmaceutical companies, combining the big alcohol and tobacco producers and, if you will, the drug “cartels,” and comparing this to the gross domestic product of each country in the FTAA.

I am left with one question: Quo vadis (where do we go from here?), USA, with your dry, inhuman liberalism?


[1] Washington Office On Latin America: Colombia Monitor (PDF), June, 2002. Washington, DC

[2] The UN Single Convention of 1961 hoped that coca plantations could be completely eliminated within 25 years, from the viewpoint that chewing coca was considered an addictive habit, which went against the mental “development” of the indigenous who chewed this “controlled substance.”

[3] Other farmers and producers of the raw materials for heroin and hashish are distributed throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, India and China

[4] See the WOLA-Washington Drug War Monitor.

[5] Manuel Castells: “The Information Era: Economy, Society and Culture.” Alianza Editorial, Vol. 3, pg. 196. Madrid, 1998.

[6] In an “entertainment” article from the Santa Cruz daily El Deber of Oct. 20, 2002, it is mentioned that the Canadian government has invested $500,000 US dollars (though the figure is actually much higher) in research into the medicinal effects of THC, the active component in marijuana, related to appetite problems, anorexia, and other illnesses that might require a medicinal plant as noble as cannabis, whose royal lineage originally hails from Egypt.

[7] At times, an anthropologist asks himself, what would Adam Smith have thought and written upon seeing an Andean, Mexican, or Indian market? For the answer read Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation.

[8] See the work of C. Wright Mills, The Ruling Class, to understand the significance of the 1960s military/industrial complex and its relationship to the Korean and Vietnam wars. The military/postindustrial complex is connected to the war on drugs and the Gulf War.

[9] Santa Fe I and II documents, in El Imperio y América Latina, Ediciones Sudamérica. Bogotá, 1989.

[10] It is interesting to note that this document has become something of a cult item due to the obscurity of the subject. I’d like to make here an homage to Rosa del Olmo, a courageous woman who was the only woman to research the DEA’s archives. May her spirit rest alongside Mama Coca, who she loved and respected so much.

[11] See work by OXFAM and the work of P. Gregorio Iriarte on the FTAA: “El Alca ¿si o no?” Una reflexión sobre el Area de Libre Comercio de América.” Organización Latoamericana “Amerindia” 2002.

[12] “National sovereignty” takes on a different meaning in the context of financial and legal globalization.

[13] We should remind the reader that nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population has Latin and Hispanic roots, and it is likely that this percentage will increase significantly in the coming decades.

[14] In 1989 a German Supreme Court justice was asked if he would support the legalization of drug consumption. After profound reflexion, he responded that the state cannot take away the citizens’ right to alter their consciousness or body as part of the inalienable rights of an adult individual.

[15] By the same logic, think about the type of labor a farmworker undergoes on the land of giant corporations like Del Monte or United Fruit. In the social history of cocaine, the African-Americans who worked in the cotton plantations of the deep South in the early 20th century consumed this substance for energy.

[16] U.S. anthropologist Stanley Mintz argued in his classic work that refined sugar was a “drug” for the proletarian classes of England in the 19th century. Its function was to provide a cheap, organic source of energy, more or less the same as the role of coca among the Bolivian miners.

[17] In its time, during the 16th and 17th centuries, coffee consumption was also considered an addiction associated with demonic forces. What’s more, one of the most famous clandestine coffeehouses in 17th century New Amsterdam was called “Wall Street.”

[18] See the work of British scientific futurist Aldus Huxley.

[19] “Since the beginning (of human history), the most serious and systematic attempts to write universal histories have considered the axis of history to be the development of freedom.” Francis Fukuyama: El Fin de la Historia y el ultimo hombre. Editorial Planeta. S.A. Barcelona, 1992. Pg. 89.

[20] For Bolivian ex-president “Tuto” Quiroga, terrorism and narco-trafficking were “twin brothers.”

[21] See the work of anthropologist Micheal Taussig, Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wildman to understand the idea of social “spaces” for the exercise of power. Michel Foucault has also written on this theme, for example, in Discipline and Punish.

[22] This list was prepared by Tom Kruse from the Center for the Study of Labor and Agricultural Development (CEDLA in its Spanish initials), Bolivia.

[23] hoyBolivia.com 10/17/02. “The Law for Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication (ATPDA) will allow the country to export labor-intensive products to the United States, such as textiles, leather, and others. Textiles are one of the principle items, given national potential.”

Dr. José Mirtenbaum Kniebel is the director of postgraduate studies at the Gabriel Rene Moreno Autonomous University, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America