WEBSITES for Colombian Case Study


This link offers a description of the pharmacology, different types, use patterns, trafficking methods and routes of cocaine hydrochloride.

Cocaine Processing: Cocaine hydrochloride (cocaine) is derived from the leaves of the coca plant.  This plant only grows well (in high yields) at certain altitude and humidity conditions, which is why the Andean region (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia) provides ideal conditions.  These three countries produce as much as 95% of the world's supply of coca.  To make cocaine, the leaves must be crushed and combined with an alkaline solution, kerosene, sulfuric acid to produce a gray gooey substance called coca paste. The paste is then treated with more kerosene and sulfuric acid, potassium permanganate and ammonium hydroxide.  This mixture is filtered and dried and what remains is cocaine base.  Finally, to make the finished white powder (cocaine hydrochloride), the cocaine base is combined with ether, acetone and hydrochloric acid.  This last stage is a very volatile process and requires the presence of skilled chemists.

Cali 'cartel' and recent history of cocaine industry

This is a short report prepared by the DEA's Strategic Intelligence Unit detailing the history of the cocaine industry in the 1990's, how law enforcement managed to arrest high-level traffickers from Cali in the mid-1990s, and how the industry has changed since then.

Colombian Narco-trafficking organizations

A 'Who's Who' of Colombian drug kingpins and the criminal organizations that they run.

The Russian connection

A concise and easy-to-read report by Nicholas Marsh on the Russian mafia, entitled The Russian Mafia: How much power beneath the hype?  Specifically, browse down to the sections on 'Smuggling Arms' and 'Drug Smuggling.'

Sicilian mafia

After many of his family members were murdered (including two of his sons) in the mafia wars of the 1980's, Tommaso Buscetta, a former member of the Sicilian mafia, decided to tell all to the courts (in Italy and the US).  His evidence resulted in the imprisonment of many top Sicilian mafia leaders and provided evidence to law enforcement of many of the activities the Sicilian mafia was engaged in.  His testimony corroborates the view held by many, that drug trafficking was (and still is) the main source of revenue for the Sicilian mafia.

Mexican Narco-trafficking organizations

A 'Who's Who' of Mexican drug kingpins and the criminal organizations that they run.

Sicilian mafia connection to Colombia

This news article describes how the Sicilians and Colombians first started doing business in the late 1980's, trading heroin for cocaine.  The Sicilians, who knew the European drug market well, exchanged their heroin for Colombian cocaine, which they marketed in Europe, together with their own heroin supply.  The Colombians had a better grasp of the North American market (and the Sicilian mafia's heroin trade network in the US was significantly dismantled by the FBI in the late 1980's) so they marketed the heroin along with their own cocaine in North America.

Bribery and corruption

Transparency International in a non-governmental watchdog group that monitors the levels of bribery and corruption in countries worldwide.  Each year they come out with a composite ranking of countries on the basis of several surveys.  Colombia is usually ranked near the bottom, i.e. it has a high level of pervasive bribery and corruption.

Money laundering: Money laundering is the process by which criminal proceeds (any money earned from illegal activity) are placed into the legitimate financial system (a bank, for example) in a way that hides their source of origin.  Law enforcement can seize criminal assets, including bank accounts, if it can prove that the funds were derived from criminal activity.  So it is extremely important to the criminal to conceal the source of the money.  Criminals do this by setting up shell companies (companies that exist only on paper), finding crooked bankers who are willing to lie about the money or not ask questions, falsifying import/export invoices, etc.

This is the website of Alert Global Media, a Miami-based organization which published Money Laundering Alert every month, and hosts the two biggest annual international money laundering conferences every year in Miami and South America.  Most of their clients are banks seeking to train their staff on new anti-money laundering procedures and laws.  Check out their LINKS connection for relevant government documents on the subject of money laundering, research reports, what specific countries are doing, etc.

The website of the International Money Laundering Information Network.  The Research page offers links to several private and government studies on money laundering topics.

Alternative Development

This is a full report (with summary) on Alternative Development in Meta and Caqueta.  This report describes what is being done in two Colombian provinces ('departments') to encourage more than 40,000 peasant farmers to switch from illegal coca and opium production to legal crop production.

Measuring the amount of coca cultivation


This is a report, entitled Integrated Monitoring System of Illicit Cultivation in Colombia.  It details the many different methods that are used to measure the total amount of illegal coca and opium cultivation throughout the country.

Coca leaf prices

This is a table and graph of coca leaf and coca paste prices from 1989 to the present. Note that prices have been climbing since 1998 in Peru and Bolivia, where farmers are holding public protests for the right to grow more leaf.  Coca leaf prices are not available for Colombia, but since 2000 more coca plants have been cultivated, leaf production is way up and prices are moderate.  Farmers make much more money if they process the coca paste themselves.  Turning the leaves into paste is a straightforward, but labor-intensive, chemical process, provided the farmers can get access to all of the chemicals they need and workers to crush the leaves.

US Anti-Drug Policy

This is the official website of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  This page pulls up The National Drug Control Strategy: 2001 Annual Report in both English and Spanish.

This is the homepage of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.  This agency handles most of the US government's domestic and overseas anti-drug efforts.  There are many links, including official reports and press releases.

US Anti-Drug Budget

This is also from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  Tables are organized by category: drug prevention, drug treatment, domestic law enforcement, interdiction (border controls), and overseas efforts.  See Table 5 which tracks changes in budgetary composition over the past 10 years.

Drug Treatment Programs and other demand-side strategies

This gives a brief description of the path-breaking RAND study examining the cost-effectiveness of treatment programs relative to domestic enforcement, border controls and crop-eradication efforts.

For an official stance on demand strategies and what the US government is currently doing, this site offers a brief description.

Social impacts

A United Nations report looking at the impacts of drug abuse worldwide on the family and community, health, education, crime, and employment.  The report also looks at how the family, community and education can help reduce drug abuse.