Subscribe and Be Alerted of New Reports

The Narco News Bulletin

"The Name of Our Country is América"

-- Simón Bolívar

Today's Press Briefing

September 21, 2000

A Narco News Global Alert

Geopolitical Drug Dispatch:


Pulso magazine of Bolivia Reports that funding for the Observatoire Géopolitique Des Drogues was pulled after OGD revealed that 80% of drug profits go to US and Euro Banks

"That organization is currently closed for lack of financing, difficult to obtain because they realized such direct criticisms against governments and established power structures."

Narco News Expresses its Solidarity to OGD and Condemns Its Governmental Censors

Today We Publish the Pulso of Bolivia Interview with OGD expert Alain Labrousse

"There probably aren't large drug organizations in the United States like the Calí Cartel, but the North American banks are those that probably capture the major profits of the money from trafficking."

The Coca Crop is Moving to the Congo

The Globalization of Cocaine Production, Caused by Eradication of Crops in Colombia, Perú and Bolivia

Translated from Pulso Magazine, Bolivia
September 15, 2000

"The Coca Crop Moves to the Congo"

Interview with Alain Labrousse

Marcelo Quezada, an entertaining friend and reader of Pulso, was in Paris a few weeks ago. There he conversed with Alain Labrousse, one of the best known French intellectuals on the issue of drugs. At the center of the dialogue was Labrousse's latest book, "Drugs: The Market of Deception,"in which the author refers frequently to the Bolivian reality.

Marcelo Quezada (MQ): The title of your recent book is "Drugs: The Market of Deception." Who is being deceived and who is doing the deceiving?

Alain Labrousse (AL): I want to demonstrate that there are two principal victims in drug commerce: first, the consumers, of course, that is the people who pay for the expensive drugs in the street and poison themselves beliving that this is going to offer them a way out of their situation, and also the producers, who are obligated to cultivate the plant from which drugs are extracted, for which they receive a minimum price in relation to the dose that is sold on the street.

In the book we show that the multiplication between the price paid to the producer for the raw material and the price paid by the consumer is not 100 percent as has been said, but rather between 1,000 percent and up to 2,500 percent.

The other deception shown in the book is that the great occidental powers that today are leaders in the fight against drugs were the first to put the drugs in the Third World. The case of opium is very well known. The Chinese waged two wars to refuse to receive the opium from England and France. The same is true with Coca. When there was a boom in cocaine early in the last century, the Dutch cultivated coca in Java, that became the number one global producer of the leaf.

Another example is Indochina, where France prohibited the use of opium among whites but tolerated it among the indigenous and with this commerce financed the colonization. In this way the great powers were, historically, the guilty parties for why the drugs have been distributed in the world.

MQ: In a radio interview I heard that you denounced the hypocrisy of the occidental governments of today with respect to the drug issue, that is to say, their political complicity with this business.

AL: In effect, there is a series of geopolitical factors that act upon this matter. For example, in the 1990s, Pakistan was one of the principal providers of heroin to Europe, but France did nothing about it, because it was enthusiastic to sell 40 Mirage airplanes to Pakistan. The same thing happen with Morocco. There, the government protects 90,000 hectares of cannabis, but because it is an ally of the east, they look the other way.

I speak of Europe because I am European, but the same can be said for the United States. It's a fact that Menem of Argentina, for example, his government was surrounded by drug trafficking scandals, but because he was privatizing everything, the United States preferred to remain silent. When there are economic interests at stake, governments involved in drug trafficking have nothing to fear.

MQ: What do you think of the so-called alternative development for the substitution of crops?

AL: I know the example of Morocco very well and this it is very revealing. There are 90,000 hectares of cannabis there, that provide work for 200,000 families, that is to say, almost a million people, and a zone that is agriculturally weak, with eroded soils and on the mountain. In order to make serious alternative development, millions of dollars would have to be invested there for at least a decade. I have studied these type of substitution projects and know how they work in France. In general, they are isolated efforts and the funders also compete between themselves. Each one invests a little bit here, a bridge there, a factory over there, but there is never a global project of great impact.

On the other hand, for example, in Guyana, we thought that the case would be that there was an alternative, but later we realized that in reality it was being undersold by cannabis, that was the alternative to the alternative crop. If we add to that that the European Union still continues accepting that five percent of its chocolates contain artificial cocoa, that is, an extract of oils of other plants, we see that these kinds of means are the best incentive to propagate illicit crops.

Then the most important thing is not alternative development, but rather the need to change global commerce. With globalization there is little to hope for, maybe they can substitute some plants for others, but they will not substitute the illicit economy.

MQ: It is often said that the Colombian guerrillas are interested in expanding to other countries, including that the narco-guerrilla with Colombian support could surge in the Chapare region of Bolivia. Do you think the FARC is making those plans?

AL: No, the FARC are a movement very focused on internal politics and I don't think they want to export the guerrilla anywhere. It's not a focal-movement, not at all, its practices are based in the Colombian farm regions and not in other populations. Right now, well, it is possible that for military reasons at times they will see the necessity to cross into Venezuela, to Panamá, to Perú, but not to form new groups there, but rather for logistics.

MQ: It's also said that the eradication of coca in Bolivia could force the transfer of its production into Brazil, where a coca with more alkaloid could be produced.

AL: In Brazil, the coca is a traditional leaf for certain tribes and in effect it is a coca adapted to the Amazon region, that is called lebadu. It's a large tree, very high, and its weakness is that it does not contain a high alkaloid content. There are not clear signs that coca would be cultivated massively in Brazil.

However, in Africa, yes, there are indications of this. The first attempts were in the Congo, where Lebanese groups involved in drug trafficking are beginning with some coca plantations. This doesn't surprise me, because it coca is already cultivated in Camaroon for the German and Dutch chemical industries. The same is done in Taiwan and Java. In all cases, if the coca is suddenly eradicated in Latin America, and the global consumption of cocaine stays the same, the producers will find the ways continue supplying the market. The same in another sense, once a half ton of opium in Perú was seized. That could be the alternative crop for the coca.

MQ: The other day, the writer Carlos Fuentes said that for each dollar earned in the business of drugs, two thirds stays in the banks of United States. Is that so?

AL: Absolutely. There probably aren't large drug organizations in the United States like the Calí Cartel, but the North American banks are those that probably capture the major profits of the money from trafficking. It's always been said that in Florida there is an overflow of dollars that doesn't correspond to the real dimensions of its economy. Thus, I would say that 80 percent of the profits from drug trafficking ends up in the banks of the wealthy countries or their branches in underdeveloped countries where there is weaker legal control. It is calculated that in Colombia, in the era when the cartels were not as persecuted, up to four billion dollars returned to the Colombian economy.

MQ: Another of the arguments for eradicating illicit plantations is that the consumption of drugs begins to expand inside the producer countries of the raw material. Is that the case?

AL: I don't believe there is a direct relationship between the production of drugs and the increase in domestic consumption. For example, in Latin America, the largest consumers of drugs are Chile, Argentina and Brazil, and none of them produce the raw materials. Then what is observed is the impact of the consumption is greater in the transport countries and not in the producing countries.

It can also be said that in some places the rise in consumption is owed to the very same alternative development and eradication. In the case of the ethnic minorities of Northern Thailand, were 200 years ago tons of opium were produced for traditional consumption, then they eradicated the crops and a little while afterward is was discovered that the people then began to consume heroin, because there was no more opium. A true epidemic, because heroin is injected and AIDS began to be a public health problem.

The same thing happened with the Talibans. They had the tradition of smoking hashish, which is known for its strong odor. But as hashish began to be repressed, they moved on to opium that has a lighter scent and can pass unnoticed. Thus, the repression of one drug produces the proliferation of another.

His Life in Prose

Alain Labrousse was born in 1937. He studied in the Literature School of the University of Burdeos. Later he was titular professor in the French Liceo of Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1965. In 1970 he began to lead from Paris the Committee for Solidarity with the fight of the Uruguayan people. At the beginning of the democratic opening in Bolivia, he made a series of audiovisual reports about the hunger strike of the women miners in 1978.

During 1977 and 1979 he traveled in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Perú and Bolivia making similar reports. At the same time he wrote for the newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique.

In the beginning of the 1990s, he founded with other investigators "The Geopolitical Drug Dispatch," from where punctual and systematic information on the theme was emitted. The group came to have correspondents in more than 60 countries throughout the world and produced annual reports that were reference documents worldwide.

That organization is currently closed for lack of financing, difficult to obtain because they realized such direct criticisms against governments and established power structures.

His last book, "Drugs: The Market of Deception" is a documented accusation about the hypocrisy of the industrialized world that penalizes the traditional cultivation of coca, poppy or cannabis while it patronizes pro-Occidental governments that live off this business such as Turkey, Morocco, Thailand or Pakistan.

His most important works include: "The Tupamaros and the Urban Guerrilla in Uruguay" (1971), "The Chilean Experience: Reform or Revolution" (1972), "Argentina, Revolution and Counter-Revolution" (1975), "Over the Paths of the Andes to Reencounter the Indian World" (1983) and "The Indian Awakening in Latin America" (1984).

Archive of Press Briefings September 19-20

Archive of Press Briefings September 8-18

Archive of Press Briefings September 1-7

Archive of Press Briefings from August 24-30

This is your war. This is your war on drugs. Any questions?

More Plan Colombia News Beginning on our Front Page

Still Standing Tall