The Andean Connection: Tracking the Drug War’s Coca Leaves and Failed Policies

(Credit: Flickr/whertha)

by Benjamin Dangl

This article first appeared in The Indypendent.

Cocaine, the drug fueling the trade that’s left thousands dead in Mexico and Central America since 2007 and which 1.4 million Americans are addicted to, originates with two species of the coca plant grown in the South American Andes. Ninety percent of the U.S. market for cocaine is fed by Colombia, with the rest largely provided by Peru and Bolivia.

An estimated 310 to 350 tons of refined cocaine were trafficked out of Colombia last year, enough to make a rail of nose candy that would encircle the earth twice. Along with exporting cocaine northward, Colombia has become a laboratory for failed drug war policies that are finding their way to Central America and Mexico.

In July 2000 President Bill Clinton signed Plan Colombia (see note following article for more information) into law, initiating the anti-drug-producing and trafficking operation that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $7.3 billion to date. U.S. military bases have been established in Colombia under the plan, as have extensive air patrols, pesticide spraying and surveillance. Because of the violence, some 2.5 million Colombians have been displaced.

“The lessons of Colombia are being ignored in many ways. You’ll have mainstream analysts saying Colombia is the model to win the drug war. If Colombia is winning then what are the Colombians trafficking?” drug war expert Sanho Tree, a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., told The Indypendent.

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Photo Chronicle of Mexico’s Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity

by Kristin Bricker and Santiago Navarro

This article first appeared at Upside Down World.

On June 4, poet Javier Sicilia and farmer Julian LeBaron led a 500-person caravan through what one major Mexican magazine referred to as the country’s “route of blood.” Over the following week, the caravan passed through some of the most dangerous places in Mexico: Michoacan, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Chihuahua. The caravan ended on June 10 in Ciudad Juarez, which Sicilia dubbed Mexico’s “epicenter of pain” because just over one-fifth of the country’s homicides occurred in that city in 2010.

One of the caravan’s principle goals was for drug war victims to network and organize. The caravan collected victims’ stories and contact information in every town it visited.

Dozens of drug war victims from across the country, such as Nepomuceno Moreno Nuñez from Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, travelled with the caravan to meet other victims and share their stories.

Moreno Nuñez (above, right, shown hugging Javier Sicilia) wants to find his son, 18-year-old Jorge Mario Moreno León, who was kidnapped and disappeared along with five friends on July 1, 2010.

Moreno Nuñez spoke with the kidnappers when they answered Jorge Mario’s cell phone. They told him that the young men were kidnapped because they collaborated with the Beltran Leyva criminal organization. “They made a mistake,” laments Moreno Nuñez. “They said that one of the boys [Mario Enrique Diaz Islas] was the son of an accomplice to the Beltran Leyvas. It’s not true.” In reality, Mario Enrique’s father, Mario Diaz Garduño, was the director of the Hermosillo municipal Health Department.

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Peace Caravan Encounters Massacres, Military Abuses and Disappearances in Torreón

Man beaten by Mexican soldiers

by Kristin Bricker

This article first appeared at the Americas Program.

Gunmen armed with AR-15 and AK-47 assault rifles massacred thirteen people in a Torreón drug rehabilitation center on Wednesday. The massacre occurred less than twenty-four hours before poet Javier Sicilia and his Citizens Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity were scheduled to arrive in Torreón for a rally against the drug war. The rehabilitation center is located just three blocks from the rally site.

Despite suspicions amongst some caravan participants that the massacre was an attempt to scare them away from Torreón, Sicilia refused to cancel the event in that city. “The march absolutely will not be postponed,” Sicilia told a press conference in Monterrey just before the caravan left for Torreón.

When the caravan arrived in Torreón, puddles of dried blood still filled the bullet-ridden rehabilitation center and ran out the door onto the sidewalk.

Sicilia had no choice but to hold the event as planned in Torreón. In a city ravaged by massacres, military abuses, journalist assassinations, and disappearances, residents risked their lives by simply organizing the anti-war rally.

According to participants, the massacre did have an impact on turnout though. “We live in constant fear,” said one protester. “There were people who wanted to be here today, but yesterday’s attack made them want to stay shut inside their homes.”

Olga Reyes Salazar, who has suffered the murder of six family members over the past two-and-a-half years in Ciudad Juarez, told Torreón residents that they can’t let fear overcome them. “We’re all afraid,” she told the crowd. “But if they keep intimidating us, we’re all just going to lock ourselves in our homes, and they’ll go there to kill us. So let’s leave our homes now and raise our voices against this government that is cruelly killing us.”

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