Despite the so-called war on drugs, the world is seeing a rapid rise in illegal drug production, drug trafficking and above all, an increase in the power and influence of the drug syndicates and cartels. Human mules are increasingly being used to slip through porous borders and even not-so-porous borders. Drug crops continue to expand and grow. Within the African markets, the popularity of cocaine is becoming, by far, the most popular and lucrative drug. Yet, everyone seems quite content to talk about it and do as little as possible or, do just enough to look as though they are actually doing something.
Latin America, Africa and the Far East are becoming increasingly active in the drug trade, these “products” making their way to the US and Europe. Just how much of the proceeds from this crime are being invested into terrorism is not officially known. But, it is known that the illegal weapons trade makes use of the same routes, possibly indicating a larger involvement of terrorist organisations.
Many African countries offer unmonitored coastlines, poorly paid officials, porous borders, inadequate training, and booming informal markets.
South Africa and West Africa in particular are becoming progressively more open to the illegal drugs trade and currently act as major transit routes. Senegal in particular has been targeted by Columbian drug lords due to its well-developed transport and telecommunications networks. Ironically, we know it, speak about it and yet do nothing.
At home, our Minister of Intelligence, Siyabonga Cwele’s wife has been implicated in an international drug trafficking scandal. Ironically, the Minister’s spokesman has said that the honourable member will make it a “priority” to investigate the allegations against his wife. But, these allegations most probably will quietly die away – as they usually do, despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence.
According to UN estimates, 50 tons of cocaine alone a year, worth almost $2-billion at European wholesale prices, passes through West Africa. This exceeds the national income of some countries. At present, the amount of illegal drugs being routed through South Africa is unknown – and if anyone does know, they are not talking.
The production of cocaine has surged across Latin America. The Andes “exports” more than 750 tons of cocaine a year. In the process, peasants are pushed off their lands, gang wars have become part of daily life, state officials and institutions seem powerless. This, in turn, has unleashed a wave of violence, terror, population displacements, corruption and above all, power to the cartels.
According to media reports, more than 6 000 people were killed as a result of drug-related violence in Mexico last year. Thus far, more than 1 000 have lost their lives this year. Large tracts of Mexico are, by all accounts, under siege as the cartels brazenly take on the government forces. This violence is steadily creeping towards the USA.
Astonishingly, the European Union and some Latin American countries are calling for a strategy that calls for “harm reduction” measures. This “strategy” will look at elements such as legalising marijuana and assistance with needle exchanges. Such “strategies” are further proof that the war on drugs is either being lost or is simply a fallacy.
The know-how and technology exist to locate and neutralise an enemy soldier. The technology to intercept phone calls, emails and such like is also available. The ability and skill to train and deploy agents and either infiltrate syndicates and cartels or penetrate them is there. The capability to monitor illegal aircraft flights is available. Covert or discretionary warfare strategies and tactics to attack the dealers, syndicates and cartels exist, yet none of this is used. Instead, governments faff around and act as though nothing is happening or express concern but worry about taking action lest it be construed as politically incorrect. Some governments sadly appear only too keen to appease the syndicates and cartels.
Western intelligence services have also happily supported – and in some instances even protected – drug lords and their cartels with the belief that this would lead to a reciprocal assistance in terms of intelligence. But, this has not been the case as the cartels have exploited the intelligence services and given very little, if anything, in return. Where they have played a role, it was in exposing their competition. An attitude of my enemy’s friend is also my friend does not always yield positive results.
In a world where even drug trafficking seems to have become politically correct at the expense of law abiding citizens, it is an astonishing phenomenon to witness. Of course, there are those that argue that people are growing, producing and trafficking drugs because of their economic circumstance. Such a strawman argument implies that anyone who is economically disadvantaged may commit crime, due to his or her circumstance.
The reach of this criminal activity is far and wide. Countries, communities and families are all targeted. Raking in billions of dollars annually, the ultimate aim of many cartels is that of power and control. They smilingly pose for photographs with heads of state – the gilt-framed photographs adorn their office walls for all to see. They count influential people as their friends and supporters. They have the money to buy whatever they wish – even the law. This gives them a sense of being untouchable and in a manner of speaking, they are.
Fighting the illegal drug trade requires a strong strategy – a strategy that governments will not be afraid to implement, regardless of the human rights of the dealers, syndicates and cartels. It, additionally, requires a genuine desire to eradicate the problem. If the drug wars are to be won, it requires determination from governments to do exactly that. This requires courage and national will – character traits few governments seem to have.
It is time for governments to either take the politically correct avenue and legalise drugs or do the correct thing and fight it in order to stop it. If the decision is made to destroy this trade, then strong action is called for. This action should call for an intensification of real intelligence gathering and hard action to attack and destroy the dealers, syndicates and cartels.
But, at present, it is obvious that the current war against the drug trade has failed dismally. If anything, it has made the syndicates and cartels stronger, more brazen and wealthier.
This is indeed a very strange way to fight a war.
My next posting will take a brief look at physical security.
Added on 19 March 2009: And so it continues - http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/269419
Added on 20 March 2009: It just gets worse…see http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2488987,00.html, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1163468/Spanish-police-seize-42-piece-dinner-set--entirely-cocaine.html, http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2488985,00.html and
http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2488915,00.html One consolation is that at least some busts are being made.
Added on 23 March 2009: It just gets worse… http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2490222,00.html