Newsbrief: Decades of Colombian Drug War Brings... New, More Efficient Drug Organizations 9/24/04

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Colombia's decades-long effort to wipe out the drug trade at the insistence and with the assistance of the United States has mainly succeeded in creating new, more efficient drug trafficking organizations, according to one of that country's top cops. In a Tuesday interview with the Associated Press, Col. Oscar Naranjo, head of the Colombian judicial police, said a new wave of "drug kingpins" is now emerging, and these individuals and their organizations are keeping a low profile while raking in profits from cocaine.

Earlier traffickers, such as Pablo Escobar, the Medellin "cartel" leader gunned down by Colombian troops with US assistance in 1993, were often flamboyant and violent, even flamboyantly violent, and led lavish lifestyles, thus attracting the attention of Colombian and US authorities. But this new generation of traffickers, said Naranjo, are not interested in flaunting wealth or bloody vendettas, just business. "They're basically dedicated to laundering profits in the international financial system, and they're experts in marketing," he said.

Trafficking styles change over the generations in response to law enforcement pressures, said Naranjo, who was described by AP as "one of Colombia's most respected law enforcement officers, who works closely with US drug agents." Naranjo identified four generations of Colombian traffickers.

The first generation, he said, were the marijuana smugglers of the 1960s and 1970s, who trafficked tons of "Colombian Gold" to the US. But they were soon eclipsed by the second generation, who turned to the more easily smuggled cocaine. Exemplified by Escobar and the Medellin "cartel," the traffickers of the 1980s waged a bloody, high-profile campaign of assassinations and bombings against the Colombian government in a bid to avoid extradition to the US. Escobar and his ilk were in turn replaced by the generation of the 1990s, led by the Cali "cartel," which Naranjo called "more sophisticated," and which resorted more frequently to bribery than bullets in order to operate.

Now, after decades of prohibitionist war, Colombia faces not only leftist rebels, rightist paramilitaries, and the Northern Valley "cartel," an offshoot of the Cali "cartel," all of which either produce or distribute coca and cocaine, but a new generation of businesslike traffickers. "Today, they want to be invisible," he said. "We don't even know the names of the big capos."

The new generation is less vulnerable to police because of one important difference with their predecessors -- they do not actually produce or monitor the production of cocaine, Naranjo said. Instead, they simply purchase the end product from either guerrillas or paramilitaries, who have established well-protected cocaine production facilities in areas they control, and then distribute it around the world.

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Issue #355, 9/24/04 Editorial: The Moral Choice is Clear | With New Sentencing Legislation Pending in Congress, Church Leaders Urge an End to Mandatory Minimums | Patients, Doctors, Supporters Head to Washington to Demand Rescheduling of Marijuana as a Medicine | For Second Year, John W. Perry Fund Helps Students with Drug Convictions Afford College | DRCNet Interview: Michael Badnarik, Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate | DRCNet Book Review: "Patients in The Crossfire: Casualties in The War On Medical Marijuana," by Americans For Safe Access | Action Alert: Still Time to Contact Judiciary Committee Members About HEA Drug Provision | Newsbrief: Schwarzenegger Signs Syringe Access Bill, Vetoes NEP Bill | Newsbrief: Schwarzenegger Vetoes Bill Barring High School Drug Testing | Newsbrief: New Jersey Needle Exchange Bill on Fast Track, Passes First Hurdle | Newsbrief: Former Child Actor Macauley Culkin Busted for Drugs in All-Too-Typical Cave-In to Police Search Request | Newsbrief: Montel Williams Show Brings Medical Marijuana Issue to the Masses | Newsbrief: Bush Warns of Canada Drug Threat, Whistles Past Afghan Opium Fields | Newsbrief: Guatemala Seeks More Anti-Drug Money from United States | Newsbrief: Decades of Colombian Drug War Brings... New, More Efficient Drug Organizations | Newsbrief: Narc Hates Free Publicity | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: British Drug Policy Think Tank Says Government Abandoned Planned Heroin Maintenance Expansion | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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