Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cocaine Profits Less Than 1 Percent of Colombia GDP, says UN Rep

A new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), available in Spanish at the Colombian field office homepage, argues that the country’s shifting cocaine trade is becoming less profitable for local groups and more violent.

The study, “New Dimensions of the Colombia Drug Trade,” by Richard Rocha Garcia, is a follow-up to his 2000 book, “The Colombian Economy After 25 Years of Drug Trafficking.” That book gained attention by estimating the amount of Colombia's GDP made up by the cocaine industry. According to Rocha, that number reached a peak in 1967, when cocaine made up 6.3 percent of Colombia’s GDP.

That number dropped to 1.4 percent in 2001 and reached 0.3 percent in 2009, according to Rocha’s new book.

“The golden age, when the large [Colombian] drug cartels monopolized the wholesale market, is over,” he told the Miami Herald. “Now those profits are being appropriated by Central America, Venezuela and Mexico.”

The book’s introduction notes that while Colombia has made apparent progress in its coca eradication efforts, global demand for cocaine remains steady and cocaine use in Europe is going up. The coca and cocaine trade is still one of the primary causes of violence in Colombia and is responsible for the deforestation of more than 3,000 square miles since 1981, the report adds.

According to UN statistics, Colombia is still the region’s largest producer of coca and cocaine. Earlier this year, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) testified to the US Senate that Peru has surpassed Colombia as the world’s largest potential producer of pure cocaine, an estimate based on the number of Peru’s higher-yielding coca fields.

News Briefs
  • Just the Facts has a helpful update on the extension of two Defense Department programs that provide counter-drug aid to foreign security forces. This includes one program, Section 1033, which started out as at temporary statute that provides almost exclusive aid to riverine patrols in Peru and Colombia. Adam Isacson writes, “This “temporary” authority has become a classic example of how hard it is to bring a military aid program to an end. Once the Defense Authorization bill passes, and renews Section 1033 through 2013, what began as a $20 million-per-year riverine counter-drug aid program for two countries will have become a $100 million-per-year general counter-drug aid program for 35 countries.”
  • The Washington Post reviews Brazilian President Dilma Roussef’s year in office, focusing on her campaign against corruption which has seen the ouster of six ministers from her 38-member cabinet. This is in addition to another 136 lawmakers under criminal investigation. The article notes that Brazil’s political culture is vulnerable to corruption -- the taking of bribes and kickbacks -- partly due to the high number of political parties which occupy seats in Congress. Many parties become intent on controlling government ministries. This gives party members the power to assign jobs to thousands of people, allowing them to pay back the electoral backers expecting a favor in return for their political support.
  • In Brazil, authorities are considering implementing a new plan in which citizens could surrender guns in exchange for World Cup tickets, the Guardian reports. The plan is one of the more creative proposals meant to drive down Brazil’s murder rate. According to a new study released by Brazilian think tank the Instituo Sangari, Brazil’s murder rate has risen 124 percent in the last three decades. The study includes an interactive map breaking down murder rates by state.
  • The Latin American Herald Tribune reports on two significant judicial reforms in Mexico: a soldier will be tried in a civilian rather than military court, while the lower house of Congress passed a reform that makes female homicides punishable by up to 60 years in prison. Elsewhere, NACLA has a report on the use of clandestine detention centers in Mexico to unlawfully hold citizens.
  • The Guardian’s Comment is Free section has a piece examining allegations that Argentina’s economy is much weaker than the government says. The article uses anecdotal evidence to support the assertion that Argentina’s inflation rate is much higher than the official figures, which puts the number at under 10 percent, in contrast to estimates by other (frequently US-based) economists who say it may be as high as 25 percent. The fundamental debate is whether Presient Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s economic reforms -- which made conservative policymakers shudder -- have been effective or not.
  • NPR reports on the ongoing difficulty of finding a working wireless connection in Cuba, months after the government promised to install a new fiber-optic cable to Venezuela.
  • Time’s Person of the Year is “the protestor,” which includes a brief profile of Mexico’s Javier Sicilia. He is the only person from Latin America named in the list even though the year did see significant protests elsewhere in the region, most notably in Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
  • The London Review of Books offers another take on Noriega’s return to Panama, from a writer whose grandfather was the US director of military intelligence inside the country during the dictator’s rule.

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