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Throughout history drugs have been nothing but a social problem, virtually a burden. Some of the most famous and influential people have been known to abuse drugs. Such individuals are Edgar Allen Poe who smoked opium in an attempt to make his poetry more creative, and musician Ray Charles, arrested in 1964 on drug charges. (Erowid) A rise in drug use began around the time when American soldiers came back home from the Vietnam War addicted to heroin. At that time, drugs were only being used by small group of people, and they were simply looked down upon. It was not until the late nineteen sixties when recreational drug use became fashionable among young, white, middle class American citizens that the United States Government “put its foot down”. (PBS) They started slowly, developing agencies like the (BNDD) Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which was founded in 1968 by the Linden Johnson administration. Congress also started passing laws like the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970.
It was not until June 17, 1971 when the war really started. At a press conference in the White House, President Richard Nixon officially declared war on drugs. He stated, “Drug abuse is public enemy, number one in the United States.” He also announced the creation of the (SAODAP) Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention. Three years later on August 9, 1974, President Nixon resigned, but not before founding one the greatest assets for the war on drugs, the (DEA) Drug Enforcement Agency. Established in July of 1973, this “super agency” (PBS) consisted of agents from the CIA, Customs and ODALE. This agency was designed to handle all aspects of the drug problem in America and would be headed by Myles Ambrose.
Throughout the first years of the program the DEA established their main focus; to stop the flow of marijuana from Mexico to America. Around the mid-seventies the “enemy” face began to change, the enemy was now cocaine and it was coming from the country of Colombia. On November 22, 1975 the Colombian police seized over 600 kilos of cocaine from a small plane at the Cali (Colombia) Airport. The plane was believed to be headed to Miami, Florida. The amount of cocaine that was seized that day was the largest cocaine bust to date. (PBS)
The DEA, along with other agencies, are still fighting cocaine and many other
drugs to this day. One of the reasons the war on drugs is lasting so long is because of the cost; the war on drugs is a very expense war. In the past, the government has spent around 10 billion dollars a year, this year alone (2011) over $14,000,000,000 is how much the federal government has spent on this seemingly, never-ending war. (Drug Sense) At this rate the cost per second will be over $600 per second by the end of the year! The reason the cost is so high is because there are so many different agencies and programs that need financial aid. Programs such as D.A.R.E and the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign are some of the programs that such money is spent on. The “Just Say No” campaign was founded by Nancy Reagan in 1984 and was the centerpiece of the Reagan Administration’s anti-drug campaign. (Wikipedia) The campaign mainly consisted of TV commercials and public advertisements, to keep kids from trying drugs.
When the war on drugs first began to take shape in the early seventies, the government wanted to know where the illicit substances were coming from. In the beginning the answer was simply Mexico, they had previously imported in all of the marijuana in the sixties. The simple “mom and pop” cartels (small businesses) would grow the marijuana in their own backyard and smuggle it over the border into southern Texas. This and much larger operations are known as the “Trafficking” of drugs. (Wikipedia) After a few years of smuggling, the government caught on, so customs started cracking down on the border. This made the smugglers take to the air; they began using airplanes to get over the border. (Drug Library) The Mexican smuggling business began to slow down though, due to stricter regulations on customs and border patrol. The lack of business was also due to another factor; America’s drug of choice had changed. America now had a taste for cocaine and it was coming from the country of Colombia. Cocaine which is an extract of the cocoa bean is grown all over the country of Colombia.
The country of Colombia is a nation made of poverty and corruption. Its main cash crop is coffee, but in reality it’s cocaine. It is speculated that in Colombia alone, there is over 150,000 hectares of coco plantations. (Transnational Institute) Colombia depends on cocaine; “it is estimated 300,000 people are directly dependent on the cocaine economy”. (icdc.com) Thousands of people are assassinated and kidnapped every year in Colombia, due to political violence. In 1989, three of the five Colombian presidential candidates were murdered; the Medellin drug cartel was mainly responsible for these violent atrocities. Medellin is one of Colombia’s biggest cities; it is located in central Colombia.
Throughout the early seventies to the early nineties, Medellin was the cocaine capital of the world. In fact anyone using cocaine between the late seventies, early eighties, had a high chance of using cocaine from the Medellin Cartel. They invented the market for cocaine; they were the first people to ever be that successful in selling dope. The Medellin Cartel consisted of many people, but there was one man who controlled it all, the key figure on the other end of the war on drugs, the kingpin himself Pablo Escobar “El Patron”. (Wikipedia) Pablo was born in the most violent of times in Colombia, “La Violenica” a time of civil war in that nation. Around 1965 when Escobar was just 17, he dropped out of school, and then began selling cocaine, by 1976 he was arrested, but this did not stop him. By 1982 Escobar had become so powerful that he was elected congressman on the Colombian Parliament. (Wikipedia) He also purchased one of Colombia’s popular professional soccer teams (Escobar was a billionaire). By this time in Colombia, Escobar was looked at as a sort of “Robin Hood” (PBS) buying mass apartment complexes for the poor to live in, the poor loved him. He was unstoppable, that was until 1989, Escobar helped coordinate a terrorist campaign that shot down an airliner out of the sky. His men shot down the plane in attempt to kill the only presidential candidate in the Colombian election. (Wikipedia) After this incident the U.S. government made Escobar a military target, and began a so-called “war” with Escobar. Four years later, a vigilante death squad known only has the Los Pepes secretly composed of the Colombian Search Bloc, Ex Medellin cartel members, and American DEA agents, announced they intended to attack family members, friends, associates, and assets of Pablo Escobar until he was found. (Wikipedia) On March 4, 1993 the Los Pepes killed Escobar’s attorney Raul Zapata. Two days later the Los Pepes killed two more of Escobar’s attorneys, by this time the Los Pepes were brutally killing five to six people a day. “On July 14, 1993 Col. Hugo Martinez, head of Search Bloc, met with U.S. Army Col. John Alexander and agreed to allow a ground-based U.S. listening post in Medellin”(Freedom To Exhale) Finally on December 2, 1993, Colonel Martinez and his men tracked Escobar to his three million-dollar estate. As the Search Bloc went in to arrest him, Escobar ran out on the roof and he and his bodyguard Alvaro de Jesus Agudelo, fired at the squad. Because of this, the police were forced to gun both of them down. He died from multiple gunshot wounds the day after his birthday at the age of 44. This was the deathblow to the Medellin Cartel; business would never be the same in Medellin.
Another country that is highly involved in drug trafficking in America is the country of Mexico. In the past, Mexico was primarily responsible for marijuana; today Mexico is responsible for many illicit substances coming into the United States, but mainly cocaine and marijuana. Today there are many drug cartels in Mexico, but the Arellano- Felix Organization (aka Tijuana Cartel) is by far the strongest. (Wikipedia) The Arellano-Felix Organization is North America’s most violent drug trafficking cartel. Based out of Tijuana, Mexico, for over a decade they shipped tons of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines into the U.S. every year. “Annual revenues are in the hundreds of millions”. (DEA) The cartels strategy is to recruit “Juniors”; young educated upper class men with families living on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana border, using them as their drug runners and hit men. They have single handedly killed hundreds of innocent people including the cardinal of a church in Mexico. They were on the FBI’s ten most wanted list a couple years ago, but they are still on the loose.
At the other end of the war on drugs, is treatment; treatment for the addiction to drugs. Addiction is one the most serious parts of the war on drugs, “it’s the aftermath of having fun”. (PBS) The Vietnam soldiers were some of the first people to suffer from heroin addiction. Psychiatrist Dr. Robert DuPont is a pioneer doctor in drug abuse treatment; he performed studies in Washington D.C. in 1969 of heroin addicts, and then convinced the mayor to allow him to provide methadone to the heroin addicts. This action resulted in the city’s crime rate dropping. (PBS)
Speaking of drug abuse addiction and treatment, the costs incurred needs mentioning. The cost of addiction can be devastating to the abusing person and the person’s family. People trade in their cars, clothing, and shelter just to get a fix for their addiction. Moreover, the cost of rehabilitation is outrageous. Unless you are attending a free one, it can cost up to $1000 dollars a week. There are many public programs today for the sole purpose of keeping people “clean”. Programs such as Betty Ford, D.A.R.E, and many more are set up to keep people from drug abuse.
In the end, the war on drugs is not a war to be won or lost; it all boils down to personal choice; to do drugs, or not to do drugs. Hopefully the choice is not to do drugs. Also, the complete ceasing of illegal drug smuggling into the United States is virtually impossible. For one, the 2,000 miles of border separating the U.S. and Mexico, as well as the coastal areas, make it tough to stop all drug trade from the south. I also suspect that government corruption on both sides of the border allow for many of these illegal substances to make their way into this nation, as it generates enormous amounts of money. After all, it is all about the money and power.
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