Narcotics, a Silent Threat (4)
Since early 20th century, drug trafficking and consumption has been paid special attention so that numerous conventions have been ratified in a bid to stop the abuse of these substances. But the abundant profit gained from drug trade and the traffickers' access to advanced technologies and arms has stymied these efforts.
Drug trade is one of the most lucrative trades in the world. The prevalence of this trade is, on one hand, due to the increase of consumption, and on the other hand, pertains to enormous revenues gained from this lethal trade.
According to the recent report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which was issued in July 2017 by United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production is on the rise and cocaine market is very lucrative. In 2016, the global opium production increased 30% compared with the previous year. This report also refers to the spread of cocaine market as a result of the growth of coca cultivation in Colombia. Evidence shows that cocaine dealing cartels have gained 93% profit. As per the studies, 90% of this plant is cultivated for production of cocaine which has turned it into a multi-billion-dollar business in the main centers of its cultivation. Peru, Bolivia and Colombia are the biggest producers of cocaine in the world.
According to the UN report, approximately 29 thousand hectares of Bolivian farms have been under coca cultivation for the few recent years. Economic experts argue that the reason for the Bolivian farmers' tendency towards coca cultivation is the quick turnover, lightness, capability of four harvests per annum and ample US dollars in the business. As a matter of fact, the most important factor for the global failure in resolving the issue of drug trafficking are the commercial benefits that are garnered by some of the countries which produce, distribute and transit narcotics.
Sinaloa is one of the oldest organized criminal groups which is engaged in drug trafficking in Mexico. Sinaloa Cartel is one of the oldest groups in Mexico which is engaged in organizational narcotic crimes. This cartel is responsible for provision of narcotics in north America. It smuggles drugs via sea, air and underground routes using the most advanced system of distribution. Statistics show that this cartel has recruited members in 50 countries.
Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera (El Chapo) is the head of Sinaloa Cartel. In 1993 he was arrested and sent to super-max prison but he escaped after 8 months. Finally, he was trapped through joint operation of the US drug police, Mexican federal police and navy commandos. However, these measures failed to stop the activities of Sinaloa Cartel.
The global drug trade has found its way in the online markets, too. During the past decade, the use of cyber space has highly increased by international drug mafia due to the spread and progress of communication technology. Nowadays, illegal drug trade is being done in a very short time as it is feasible even via mobile phone. Hence, it is very difficult to control it. Some reports indicate that since 1996 a number of Dutch companies have been using internet to sell cannabis seeds and derivatives (marijuana and hashish). As per the report of Interpol, the police of Britain and Ireland have detected over one thousand internet sites which are engaged in the sale of narcotics such as cocaine, heroin and hashish. The report adds that most of these sites are active in the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Presently, online markets own a small share of illegal sale of narcotics but they are increasing quickly. The financial turnover of online drug markets amounted to nearly 180 million dollars in 2015 while it was approximately 15 million dollars in 2012. According to Global Drug Survey, the US's share of this market increased from 8% in 2014 to 15% in 2015. The narcotic substance "ecstasy" (MDMA) got the highest monetary value in these dealings.
British daily Economist, in a research report on the online markets, gathered information on the sites Aguera, Evolution and Silk Road 2 in the period of December 2013-July 2015. The report shows that the sum of contracts during the said period totaled nearly 50 million dollars. Of course, online drug markets are short-lived. The first website called Silk Road worked just for three years. Daily Economist claims that the biggest site that is still active is Alphabay. The fourth version of Silk Road has just started working as a serious challenge for Alphabay.
The UN investigations, however, indicate that the traditional methods of drug trade are still working strongly. Peru and Colombia have been named as the major producers of cocaine in the world. Cocaine is mainly exported to the United States, Brazil and Europe. According to the Peruvian police, drug is smuggled via air and every aerial transfer of cocaine garners scores of thousands of dollars for the pilot and traffickers. Each day nearly 200-500 kilograms of cocaine are transferred in the region. Each of these freights is worth 300-500 thousand dollars and a pilot gets 10-25 thousand dollars for every flight.
Statistics show that the income of global drug trade constitutes 600 billion dollars (8%) of the total global trade. 190 billion dollars of this figure is related to the internal trade of narcotics in the US. This is equal to the whole trade of the country's auto and steel industry per year. The drug trade is so rife in the United States that 75% of paper dollars in the country are stained with cocaine. Europe is the second cocaine market after the US. Britain, Germany and France are among the biggest consumers of cocaine. Cocaine is second illicit drug consumed after hashish especially in the west of the continent. Billions of dollars have so far been spent on campaigning against narcotics and thousands of people have lost their lives in this campaign. Nevertheless, according to the report of United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the opium cultivation increased in 2017 and, despite annihilation of many big drug cartels, this lucrative business persists remarkably.