CHAPTER IV: THE INDUSTRIALIZATION OF COCA IN THE UNITED STATES, THE LEGAL COCAINE CLUB
According to an assertion made by the United States Government contained in a document disseminated by the United States Information Service (USIS), and sent to the Bolivian Congress where the Coca-Cocaine issue was being debated, one of the major companies, currently producing local anesthetics is the Stephan Chemical Co. (This company is in charge of the de-cocainization of the coca leaf for the Coca Cola Company).
The document published by USIS states:
"The importation of coca into the United States from Bolivia, dates back a century. Once the leaves arrive in New Jersey, they are stored in certified containers protected by the most advanced alarm systems. Stephan is subject to inspection by the DEA at any moment. Stephan separates cocaine from the coca leaves and the remainder is used for flavoring food products. Coca Cola has been buying this de-cocainized product since 1886. There is no cocaine in Coca Cola since 1902.
The cocaine so extracted is sold as local anesthetics to the pharmaceutical industry".
According to an annual publication from the "International Narcotics Control Board" of the United Nations:
Comparative Statement of the provision and statistics of narcotics submitted for 1982 for all governments in compliance with the provisions of international treaties EIINCB/1983/5.
In addition to the United States, which in accordance with official data from this organization, had for that year a stock of 2,038 tons of coca leaves and 530 kilos of cocaine, another 36 countries have the right to use coca leaves:
|Austria can manufacture or import
|4 kilograms of cocaine
111 and 472 kilograms of leaves
29 kilograms of cocaine
20 kilograms of cocaine
1 and 100 of coca leaves
530 Kilos of cocaine for scientific use. 644 kilograms of coca leaves to prepare other stimulants and 499 tons of coca leaves to keep in stock. In 1982, the USA could buy 1,144,457 kilos of coca leaves for these purposes.
The above does not include the coca leaves required for the Coca Cola Company. The JIFE reports do not specify the needs for this item because the Geneva convention exempts this item from control.
The requirements published for 1993 indicate only 300 tons. Does this mean that they have reduced the manufacturing of local anesthetics? Or are there other coca sources?
We have named this exclusive circle the Legal Cocaine Club in an open letter addressed to the President of Bolivia in representation of the farmer federations of coca producers. 23
One can observe the absence of the Andean countries, even though supposedly they are main coca producers. The reasons are, of course easily understandable, beginning with their industrial underdevelopment, a result in turn of the control exerted by the large industrial monopolies which we have just seen and ending with the defamation and mis-information campaign geared to prevent the countries producing the raw materials from obtaining a legal benefit from the production of coca.
The scope of this mis-information in recent times has reached really absurd proportions. Let us return to the official document from the USA submitted to the coca-cocaine debate convened by the President of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada:
The referenced document published by USIS to justify their alleged eradication plans or eliminate the coca plant states:
The United States and the international community are opposed to the de penalization of coca. Due to the cocaine contents in coca there is no market, and therefore no interest or possibilities for industrialization of the coca classified as a dangerous narcotic substance.
Should coca be de-penalized and if somehow an international demand should be created for its products, this would not in any way be a market for the coca growers of Chapare. Coca is a plant that grows easily in all parts of the world. There are no doubts that the agricultural industry of the USA and other places could grow coca much more efficiently than the Chapare farmers. the depenalization of coca in this sense, would mean the end of the coca growing in Chapare, Bolivia.
After reading this, one wonders if the intention of eradicating coca is real!
What kind of economy moves the United States?
The lack of information from JIFE with respect to Coca Cola does not permit us to have any more accurate information, but if we think of the level of consumption achieved by Coca Cola throughout the world, we can imagine the size of that business.
As for anesthetics derived from coca, we will base ourselves simply on the report from JIFE already mentioned. It indicates that for the year 1982, the import of 1,144 tons of coca leaves to complete the stock of 2,038 tons has been authorized. If we take into account the report from the Harvard Botanical Museum l, coca could contain up to 2.25% of alkaloids. The Stephan Chemical Co. could then manufacture up to 45 tons of this anesthetic from this stock.
One vial of 15 grams of lidocaine gel at 4% costs about 1.50 US$ in Bolivia. Therefore, 0.6 grams of the anesthetic contained in this gel 4% of 15 grams) costs 1.50 US$. Deducting the container and the vehicle, we can round to 2.50 US$ the gram of local anesthetic for retail sale to the public. Then, in 1982, the Stephan Chemical Co. could have generated 45 million grams at 2.50$/gram, or 112 million US dollars for the year 1982.
We should add here the anesthetics manufactured from the cocaine resulting from the de-cocainization of coca leaves for the Coca Cola Co., undisclosed at this time.
THE WAR AGAINST THE TRAFFIC OF NARCOTICS: A PROTECTION OF THE MONOPOLY OF LEGAL COCAINE?
International conventions, such as the 1961 Geneva Convention and others to regulate the production of coca and its derivatives world wide, grant the Coca Cola Co. and its subsidiaries proprietor rights on coca leaves.
GENEVA LAW (AS PUBLISHED BY THE UNITED NATIONS ORGANIZATION)
Article 21: Limitation on manufacturing and importing by countries. Page 23.
Quantities shall not exceed the following
a) The quantity consumed within the limitations of the corresponding provisions for medical and scientific purposes.
b) The quantity used within the limitations of the corresponding provisions for the manufacture of other drugs and preparations contained in List N° 3 and substances to which the convention does not apply.
c) The quantities exported.
d) Special purposes (!)
1.- The same will apply to parties which allow the planting of the coca shrub and the same monitoring system established in Article 23 used for opium poppy flowers, will be used for the coca leaves.
Article 23 (Creation of International Organizations for monitoring opium, which also includes coca, according to Article 26, Page 24. Section 2e. The organization will have the exclusive right to import, export, trade wholesale and keep opium stocks (or cocaine) which are not in the possession of the manufacturers of alkaloids from coca (or opium), medicinal coca or cocaine preparations. The parties are not obligated to extend this exclusive right to medicinal cocaine and preparations based on cocaine.
Article 24 (Limitation of production for international trade) Pages 25 and 26.
Section 2a. Maximum of five tons and fulfilling certain requirements
5) The provisions of these articles do not prevent the parties from: a) Producing opium for their own needs, or
b) Exporting to other locations in accordance with the provisions of this convention the opium (or cocaine) impounded from illicit traffic.
Article 27. (Supplementary Provisions with respect to coca)
1) The parties may authorize the production of a flavoring agent which does not contain any alkaloids, and in the quantity necessary for that use, authorize the product, importation, trade and possession of the leaves.
2) The parties shall separately provide (Art. 19) provisions and statistical information (Art.20) with respect to coca leaves for the preparation of the flavoring agent EXCEPT to the extent such coca leaves are used for the extraction of alkaloids and the flavoring agent. This is so reported in the provisions and statistical information.
These articles allow the Coca Cola Co. (herein named as the flavoring agent) absolute control of coca production. But, as with any other law, the Geneva Convention law can be applied to any flavoring agent. If Bolivia or any other country should produce one, they could resort to this Article.
Section 2, Art. 27 allows for the production of alkaloids (cocaine). With these simple articles the Coca Cola Co. assumes absolute ownership and monopoly on the production and industrialization of coca leaves, and in addition it excludes reports on the actual figures on coca leaves and derivatives it handles.
Does cocaine narcotize to justify its inclusion in the war against narcotics? The term narco-trafficking is totally inappropriate from a technical point of view. Because a narcotic is just the opposite of stimulant. One induces sleep, while the other keeps one awake. We saw in the scientific background how, in medical practice, one is the antidote of the other in overdose cases. Thus, an excessive dose of cocaine induces such a degree of excitement that it is necessary to narcotize the subject or give him sedatives, and vice-versa.
Therefore, any commerce alien to this exclusive circle is declared illegal, qualified as narco-trafficking and punished accordingly.
The Geneva law and similar legislation could not possibly have ignored such a detail and classify within the same group two substances so different, not only by their origin and chemical formula, but also particularly for their effects on the human organism. Let us not forget that Dr. Howard Fonda, the Director of the American Society of Pharmacists was in charge of the commission of the United Nations against coca. Was the head of the pharmacists of the most scientifically advanced country in the world, totally unaware of such elementary detail of his profession...? The difference between two chemicals discovered in the XIX Century (1803-1859), i.e. with pharmaceutical knowledge spanning a century between both?
The legislative correlation between opium and coca is not a matter of ignorance or error, quite the contrary, it is a premeditated maneuver to seize the most lucrative business of the century, and possibly not only with reference to the pharmaceutical industry.
However, the bulk of the economy of coca industrialization in the USA can be better seen through its star product, almost a symbol of the Twentieth Century, Coca Cola. With unprecedented success in the history of beverages, Coca Cola known as Coke, is the beverage with the most stimulating power on the central nervous system and it is the largest selling and most consumed beverage in the whole world. It is the symbol of one of the most powerful countries in the world. In one of its missions in 1995 the space shuttle will in addition to carrying the centenary and historical Coca Cola logotype, will perform scientific tests on the beverage on the behavior of gases in solution with liquids in space. It will possibly advertise the 107th birthday of Coca Cola2, and the 25% sales increase during 1994. 3
In this way, the industrialization of coca in the United States through the Coca Cola Co., the Stephan Chemical Co. and the DEA will vanquish all four fronts:
1 st The Local Anesthetic Industry
2nd The Coca Cola Industry
3rd The Legal Stimulants Industry
4th The War Against Narco-Traffic. (Conditioned loans, arms sales, jobs, etc.)
The Bolivian proposal is very simple: the industrialization of the coca leaf for all of the above mentioned, and the opening of markets in the Northern Hemisphere.
NARCO-TRAFFIC: THE ILLEGAL COMPETITION TO COCA COLA
Parallel to the growth and strengthening of the exclusive Legal Cocaine Club, created by International Conventions, a natural and obligated contradiction is generated: the illegal trade of coca leaf derivatives, especially used as stimulants. The anesthetics and legal stimulants industry remained in the hands of the transnational pharmaceutical industry which resells the finished product to Andean Countries.
In the years when cocaine was legally exploited and, when transnationals were in control of the world market, an endless number of businessmen, in the northern hemisphere, dedicated to this commerce were probably left out of business. Supposedly this created an interest on the part of gold-digging adventurers. This time they were in search of a new Dorado, the world wide known The real thing (spark of life).
Clandestine production in the Andean countries started for sure with some grams and a little later on with some kilos. The finding of just 8 pounds seized by US Customs in 1961 is an example of the illegal competition magnitude. These early stages also show how the prohibition law , signed precisely that year in Geneva, is what caused the illegal trade. Every action has a corresponding reaction.
It is assumed that the first illegal production of cocaine in the Andean countries was made in private laboratories. They processed cocaine chlorhydrate from the leaf and must have exported it immediately because cocaine, in the 60's, was practically unknown in Bolivia.
Judging from a 400 % (27) increase in the coca leaf production during the 70's, this was when the production of cocaine crystal rose abruptly. These small laboratories had to be transformed into major illegal industries in order to cope with the growing demand from the northern hemisphere countries where business was made. These industries, just as the earlier ones, necessarily were private.
In the 80's the illegal trade of cocaine in the Andean countries flourished. In Bolivia, this translates into violent clashes between powerful groups fighting for political power and for the only economic income, one derived from the illegal industrialization of the coca leaf.
During Garcia Meza's Presidency (1980), internationally known as the Cocaine Coup, the price of cocaine crystal in Bolivia was over 10.000 US$ per kilogram due to government control on narco-trafficking. Accusing this government of having established a cocaine monopoly, USA intervened throwing Garcia Meza out of Government. General Torrelio provisionally assumed the Government of Bolivia. Torrelio, pressured by the US Government, ordered measures to be taken destined to avoid the removal of coca from the producing zones. Thus, in a short time, the coca producing peasants surprisingly saw the increase of the coca leaf in their back yards while prices for the leaf dropped considerably. By then the so called narco-traffickers, especially the chemistry technicians formerly employed by Garcia Meza, were wandering unemployed in search of any means of sustenance. It was the same in the case of the pisa cocas (coca leaf pressers), low social class ex-conscripts who were used to produce pasta when they were in the army barracks. Both elements were qualified workers within the illegal coca trade. At a determined moment, they found themselves with ever growing volumes of leaf in the coca zones which were fenced by the drug-fighting strategy!
Thus, during the democratic Government of Siles Suazo (beginning of the 80's) a chain reaction was ignited, like setting straw on fire. The Bolivian tropic was filled with thousands of rudimentary plastic and bamboo laboratories. They grew like mushrooms from one moment to another. While some produced with man power and a cheap coca leaf, others produced with the know-how. All this was done with a very important characteristic which defined, up until now, the new modality for drug manufacturing in Bolivia: the integral chemical laboratory of that time that belonged to the private illegal enterprise was divided in two. On the one hand are the plastic home-made laboratories, that elaborate only the first phase of the drug, the pasta or cocaine sulfate. These artisans have an incomplete knowledge of the process. They do not have chemical reagents nor the market for cocaine chlorhydrate or crystal.
On the other hand, another type of laboratory was created in the Bolivian tropic. These belonged exclusively to the Bolivian upper class and, were dedicated to the production of the second phase of cocaine. They posses the know-how and the necessary reagents. These major cocaine pasta refineries make a product previous to cocaine crystal, known as oxide of cocaine sulfate. The owners, last heirs of the cocaine golden era in Bolivia, still have some contacts who no longer buy the cocaine crystal, but just this refined or base product. From this point onwards, although cocaine crystal has higher prices, the country stopped manufacturing cocaine chlorhydrate in large scale. Laboratories, from that time on, were devoted to the massive production of a cheaper product. Laboratories for the crystallization process were moved to Colombia and later to USA, along with the economical gains that go with a finished product.
Therefore, if Garcia Meza's Government represented the peak of the illegal private major enterprise of the more expensive cocaine chlorhydrate, Siles Suazo's Government is the transfer to major popular enterprises of the cheaper cocaine pasta.
The final result is. an overproduction of cocaine pasta, which causes prices to go down in Bolivia. In Shinaota (a tropical coca zone), notoriously known as world capital of cocaine, a kilo of pasta reached the point of costing less than 300 US$ on the open market. Who benefited from all this?. The international dealer, that obtained a kilo of cocaine crystal for anywhere between 1000 to 1500 US$, which is ten times cheaper than in Garcia Meza's time (pasta has only a 20 to 30% cocaine content).
And who stands to lose? The Bolivian population which today, especially the low social strata, within its reach and in a massive way, the toxic cocaine pasta.
Because pasta has to be imported and must reach the refineries in the Bolivian tropic, an internal route was established which starting in the coca leaf producing zones, gets into the hands of intermediaries, who transport the drug by land, air and water. In the case of Cochabamba (a principal coca producing zone), pasta first floods this city and then continues towards the tropic and its refineries. Some cities, such as La Paz, find themselves relatively free of the problem. The pasta produced in Yungas (an ancient coca producing zone in La Paz) does not need to go into the city, it goes north instead, towards the tropic through the Amazon basin rivers. Once in the tropical laboratories the pasta is refined and later sent to the great northern metropolises, where finally, it is converted into cocaine chlorhydrate.
In Bolivia, the major cocaine industry has taken into account great quantities of man power, within which we found: ex-bricklayers, car drivers, teachers, small businessmen, students and other groups who are easily contaminated by the toxic pasta's sulfuric smoke.
At a higher level, the rescatadores are found. They are the people that go from laboratory to laboratory in the jungle, testing and buying good quality merca (name contracted from mercaderia -merchandisea popular name for pasta). They usually count on big financial resources. They are sent by the owners of major refineries to search for merca of quantities over 100 kilos. Usually, their main objective is to come up with 500 kilos, which is the cargo capacity of a twin engine plane which takes pasta to refining laboratories. From there, and thanks to the great northern metropolis contacts, the impure cocaine pasta, after a brief refining or cleaning with potassium permanganate, will be sold to the big businessmen of the northern metropolis to be transformed into cocaine chlorhydrate. The money collected, after a money laundering process in banks of the industrialized world, will come back to Bolivia (in a lesser quantity of course) to complete the wrongly called trafficking of narcotics.
On the other extreme of the business social scale is the small dealer, who installs his business in some strategic corner in the city where, some times he may spend the whole night, waiting patiently for clients who prefer late night hours to acquire a few charged cigarettes or the little envelope that contains the precious gram of cocaine pasta. This group, along with the coca producing farmers and the pathological drug user are usually the preferred or maybe the only target that the drug police raid. They are also, with very few exceptions, the only ones to occupy jails and newspapers headlines. They are the ones to whom the responsibility of the millionaire industry of drug trafficking is attributed. It would be the same as attributing the marketing capacity of an enterprise as big as the Coca Cola to them.
So jails hold small manufacturers, small dealers and pathological users that, within the prison's high walls protection, dedicate themselves to the daily abuse of cocaine pasta.
WHAT SOLUTIONS HAVE BEEN SET FORTH?
TO KILL THE DOG IN ORDER TO GET RID OF THE FLEAS?
The most curious of it all is that for such a terrible illness the treatments that have been tried go from the implausible to the criminal. I will quote some examples to illustrate this fact.
During the 70's, the so-called eradication projects of coca plantations started. To the then very few coca producing peasants, in comparison with today, tea and coffee seeds in addition to tools were offered in exchange for stopping the production of coca. Some farmers found the idea interesting and joined the project receiving what was offered. But the next door neighbor, the one that did not produce coca, found himself out of the deal. He did not receive tools nor seeds and asks himself: "What should I do to have those gifts? The answer is simple: "You must grow a coca field to exchange it".
So a real promotion to cultivate coca started. More and more peasants grew coca to gain access to credits, aid and presents. Could it be that the northern hemisphere experts have made a mistake expending fortunes in projects to prevent the scourge of drugs?
We believed as such, but today, when the offer is not simply a few tools or seeds, but 2,000 US dollars in cash, this stimulus is simply irresistible. To better understand this phenomena, we should know that the eradication projects that I mention, do not have any planning or enough infrastructure to exercise an efficient control of the goals that it proposes. Therefore, not only are new crops created but also the old ones are planted again with coca.
That is why it is not a coincidence nor error to me because as the implementation of these great solutions (!), the coca harvest has incremented during the 70's in a 400 %. In relation to the substitution of crops, the story is even more ludicrous. Gum trees that would never yield a sole drop of latex were brought, not only because they are not species from that ecosystem, but also because they were brought in when rubber was displaced from the international markets.
Maybe the geniality demonstrated in the crops substitution is in the sale of Kutsu from the US Government to Bolivia. Kutsu is a vegetal pest that destroys not only crops, but also roads, bridges, electrification posts and whatever gets in the way of its accelerated growth.
On the television program Ripley's Believe It Or Not, some Georgian farmers, who suffered the consequences of this pest were interviewed. The farmers jokingly proposed to send this terrible plant to their arch enemies: then the Soviet Union. When people responsible had to clarify what paper Kutsu would play in Bolivia, they answer that it was forage. When they were told that there was no cattle in the coca zones, they said that they would sell American water buffaloes to serve as animal traction to impulse agriculture in the coca zones. These animals also would eat the Kutsu.
In other words, drug trafficking, a supposed problem of the 20th century would be resolved by destroying the land with a pest and applying agricultural technology from the beginnings of mankind: animal traction.
The destruction of coca crops by means of a chemical weapon, called AGENT ORANGE, left over from the Vietnam war and notorious for its terrible cancerous and teratogenic effects, was one other geniality of the war against coca. Fortunately, a Bolivian all level tight opposition did not allow the buying of this chemical, which does not find a resting place in US land. The American army is not able to find a way to get rid of it, except for the quantity that it was able to sell for the coca war and which must be some place in Bolivia.
The enumeration of fraudulent deals made with the excuse of crops substitution is endless and it does not only affect the economy but it also threatens the integrity of the Andean people and its ecosystem.
Here: it should be recalled that it is not necessary to kill the dog in order to get rid of the fleas.