Pubdate: Sat, 14 Dec 2013
Source: Ledger, The (Lakeland, FL)
Copyright: 2013 McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Author: Teo Ballve, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Note: Teo Ballve lives in Colombia and is a fellow of the Social 
Science Research Council. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project.


Twenty years ago this month, U.S. authorities helped bring down 
Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, but Washington's global war on 
drugs has not let up. In fact, it has become costlier, bloodier, more 
widespread and futile.

Escobar died in a hail of bullets Dec. 2, 1993, fleeing from police 
on a rooftop in his native city of Medellin. It took a 3,000-strong 
elite force of Colombian police - supported by U.S. intelligence 
agencies and $73 million in aid that year alone - to bring down the drug baron.

Today, the war on drugs costs U.S. taxpayers more than $51 billion a 
year. Colombia itself has received more than $10 billion in military 
assistance from Washington since Escobar's death.

But U.S. authorities have almost nothing to show for it. In fact, a 
major study published by a British medical journal this fall showed 
that illegal drugs have actually become cheaper and more potent 
during the past 20 years.

Like any lucrative industry, the drug trade exhibits Hydra-like 
resiliency: Cut off one head and two more sprout in its place.

After Escobar's demise, for instance, Colombia's cocaine business 
fragmented into micro-cartels controlled by armed militias, giving 
Mexican cartels a stronger foothold in the global supply chain. 
Although Colombia and Peru are the world's top producers of cocaine, 
it's the Mexican cartels that move the product into the United States.

And the drug business is expanding geographically - in part, because 
of the supposed success of anti-drug efforts. So, business is not 
just booming, it's moving. Analysts call it the balloon effect: 
Squeeze the trade in one place and it simply bulges up elsewhere.
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