Peter Rydell , Susan S. Sohler Everingham. Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience. This report analyzes the relative cost-effectiveness of various available drug interventions. Four such interventions analyzed in this document are 1 source country control; 2 interdiction; 3 domestic enforcement; and 4 treatment of heavy users.
The first three of these programs focus on supply-control, whereby the cost of supplying cocaine is increased by seizing drugs and assets and by arresting and incarcerating dealers and their agents. The fourth program is a demand-control program because it reduces consumption directly, without going through the price mechanism.
Treatment of heavy users has only a small percentage of this budget, even when privately funded treatment is included. The goal of alternative development programmes is to turn areas where illicit crops are grown into plantations for legitimate agricultural goods and to integrate them into the formal economy, allowing farmers to earn their livelihood legally. For the EU and most of its member states, alternative development programmes are the central pillar of their international anti-drug policy. However, European governments are not the only ones that implement alternative development projects or programmes as a way to control drug supplies.
Since the s the US has supported many such programmes in Latin America. In the past a series of problems has arisen when alternative development projects are implemented. Areas where illicit crops are grown are marginal and lack infrastructure, so it is hard for alternative crops to reach formal markets, both at the national and international levels. Crops are simply shifted to another area, rather than undergo substitution this is the so-called balloon effect. Coordination is difficult between eradication of illicit crops and the availability of alternative development measures. Resistance from armed non-government groups and the precarious security situation in many areas where illicit crops are raised.
A lack of legal security and clearly defined deeds to property, which makes long-term investment risky.
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The comparative disadvantages of alternative products compared to coca leaves and cocaine. In order to overcome or avoid these difficulties, these days aid agencies from the countries of the OECD offer all-encompassing alternative development programmes that go beyond simply replacing illicit crops. This broader focus seeks to overcome the problems inherent in alternative development programs and create a series of incentives that makes it more appealing and more secure over the long term for farmers to give up growing illegal crops.
Other preventive measures aim to discourage migration to areas where such crops are raised. These measures attempt to encourage local development in regions where people might be tempted to move to areas where drug-destined crops are grown. The difficulty of defining goals. Alternative development projects tend to be assessed in terms of the results they achieve in replacing illegal crops with legal ones and whether this substitution is sustainable or not; for this reason, the evaluation does not centre on resolving the difficulties we discussed earlier.
The fundamental question is not whether the day-to-day problems that might arise by implementing an alternative development project are resolved. Rather, it is whether alternative development tools are adequate for achieving the main goal of controlling the supply of drugs, their price and availability and, therefore, consumption of them. The question is not usually posed by donor governments nor the ones receiving aid, even though alternative development, at least among member states of the EU, is seen as the backbone of international anti-drug policy.
It is noteworthy that this question is not debated in the corresponding alternative development forums. As we already stated, even major rises in the commercial value of coca leaves in producer countries will not have a visible effect on the final price of cocaine in the last link of its commercial chain. This is true both for eradication and alternative development projects; in the end, both methods share the same logic.
Therefore, the central goal of controlling international supplies of drugs —making them more expensive— cannot be achieved through alternative development projects. Even supposing that crops were effectively transformed, they would only be displaced, not replaced, beyond what happens at the local level. This is very similar to the consequences of massive eradication.
Rather, it is likely that crop displacement reduced the potential success of local DA projects to zero. However, the middlemen in the cocaine business —the ones who buy the raw material from the coca growers— can pay more, offsetting the possible commercial advantages of the alternative products.
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Taking into account the wide margins present in the cocaine trade, there will be no shortage of resources, and even less so because of the possibility of price rises being passed on to the next stages in the production and commercial chain. From a political standpoint, alternative development projects are more attractive for Europe than crop eradication or other more repressive measures. They have a reputation as being more humane and socially-oriented, while crop eradication methods strip farmers of their livelihood and harm the environment, and perhaps even people.
However, neither method has been shown to be an efficient tool in controlling drug supplies. Alternative development projects make sense when they break the feedback relationship between development and drug trafficking. They also make sense when they do away with war economies that fuel combatants in endemic internal conflicts in several producer countries.
Furthermore, one can consider the important contribution that alternative development makes to supporting the establishment of structures of good governance. This can be encouraged by an integrated approach, the one we described earlier, which over the long term could curb the displacement and extension of crops used to make drugs.
Alternative development projects make no sense if the goal is to control the supply of drugs or intervene in the drug-consumption habits of people in Europe or the US. Prolonging this belief would encourage false expectations, freeze resources that can be used more efficiently elsewhere and hinder a re-working of the approach. DA programmes can no longer be evaluated in terms of their performance in reducing crops used to make of illegal drugs, which is a goal which they cannot fulfil. What can be assessed is the extent to which DA tools alleviate the structural problems that contributed to the drug economy taking root in certain areas.
The alternative approach must go hand in hand with systematic control of the international transit system. Only by interrupting the commercial chain of cocaine or other drugs can one achieve a sustainable transformation of areas where illicit crops are grown into ones with legal alternatives.
Farmers who grow coca leaves would stop growing them, or opium poppies, for the same reason that it is so difficult to grow alternative crops: without access to global markets, there is no way to sell them and thus no crops. They are needed to convert organic material into a drug, refine it and purify it. Controlling trade in these substances is an important tool in controlling supply, as these precursors are a weak link in drug production. Controlling chemical precursors is not limited just to producing countries; it also seeks to restrict their availability, and for this reason there is debate over the usefulness of this as a tool in controlling supply in or near the producer countries.
There are now 23 listed chemicals which can only be bought and sold in a restricted fashion. Most of these substances have more than one use and tend to be obtained through legal trade channels. In its strictest dimension, the control of chemicals agents used to made cocaine is limited to potassium permanganate KMnO 4.
It is key to making cocaine but also has a wide range of legal industrial uses. This chemical is the only cocaine precursor that is listed on schedule 1 of the annex to the Vienna Convention of , which imposes stricter international rules on trade in this substance. To enhance the control process, the EU has signed special accords with all the Andean countries, except Venezuela, on trade in chemical precursors. However, the amount of KMnO 4 required to refine and purify cocaine are relatively small compared to that of other chemical substances needed for this process, such as sulphuric acid, sodium carbonate and acetone.
In and , 26 countries reported legal exports of KMnO 4, with volume totalling 2, tonnes. In the Colombian authorities alone seized nearly tonnes of KMnO 4 and destroyed 15 illegal laboratories used to produce it. This shows that no all precursors are of foreign origin. Imports of larger amounts of precursors for industrial purposes by some countries Argentina, Brazil and Chile that border on cocaine-producing nations are legitimate. But this sets up a mechanism for small amounts of multiple-use chemicals to be diverted.
The strict control regime that exists within the EU has limited reach in producer countries and their neighbours. Although the control mechanisms need constant verification and updating to curb this illegal diversion, options for intensifying control on these chemicals seem to be fewer than with other tools. As we have shown earlier, as far as having an impact on the setting of the final price of cocaine, neither eradication campaigns nor alternative development projects are effective tools for controlling supply.
The options for intensifying control of chemical precursors seem to have been exhausted. Furthermore, the price of cocaine has fallen steadily, reaching very low levels. If one considers the rather modest results achieved so far by policies to control supply in producer countries, how effective has this control been in transit countries and areas?
Depending on how close they are to producer and final-destination countries, we can distinguish several tools of control, which we will analyse here. One well-known example of these policies was the interdiction of air traffic in Peruvian territory near its north-eastern limits, a practice carried out by the Lima government in the s and 90s in close collaboration with US forces. The interdiction regime was imposed to eliminate drug-related flights between the countries that grew coca leaves —then just Bolivia and Peru— and Colombia, the main cocaine-producing nation.
Intense air traffic in light planes supplied Colombian laboratories with cocaine base from Bolivia and Peru. In the s there was not yet much coca being grown in Colombia, but cocaine refining labs were concentrated there. The enforcement of interdiction —the idea was to intercept forcibly non-identified planes— reduced illegal traffic considerably along this route. But Colombian drug traffickers reacted by establishing alternative routes, for instance through Brazil, where the current regime of strict air traffic control did not yet exist. What is more, and this was even more serious, the Colombian cartels started to encourage coca-growing in their own country.
While coca production in Bolivia and Peru declined because of the closure of the commercial chain and simultaneous eradication campaigns, it rose significantly in Colombia. The total surface area of illicit crops in the three countries remained virtually unchanged between and Within them, crops were just moved from one place to another. Under this initiative, the small countries of the Caribbean and the secretariat of CARICOM received support and training to improve their systems for controlling their land and maritime borders and broaden cooperation by the security agencies.
The Colombian authorities alone accounted for a quarter of the confiscations. More than half of the cocaine seized in , almost tonnes, was confiscated in an early phase of the commercial chain. First of all, in this early stage the commercial price of the drug is still very low.
Secondly, early seizures can be replaced easily, given the proximity of places where coca is grown and refined. Thirdly, the loss of drugs that are seized cannot only be offset by cocaine that is in storage, but also with cocaine that is in transit: it is simply cut with higher percentages of additives in later phases. Therefore, control of transit in or near producer countries, as efficient as it may seem in light of the high numbers of seizures, has only a limited effect on the final price and availability of cocaine for consumers.
However, seizures that take place late in the commercial chain, closer to the consumer than to the producer, have a higher probability of being effective and affecting the final price of the drug.
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Near urban markets in European countries or the US, the price of the drug is higher: 10 tonnes of cocaine seized in the port of Santa Marta, Colombia, have nearly the same commercial value of one ton that is seized the territorial waters of Ghana. Production and logistical costs account for only a tiny part of the final price. It is obvious that transit control measures only make sense if they are carried out near the final consumer; in the case of the EU, very close to the common external border.
The impact on drug trafficking networks is greater when the drug is seized in the later phases of the commercial chain. In this case it is harder to replace confiscated drugs because the original source is so far away. Furthermore, there tend to be losses at earlier control points, as well. So the damage is greater for the traffickers, who will probably pass on the cost of these losses to the final consumer.
An empirical example of this logic was the doubling of the price of cocaine between January and September in the US and the temporary scarcity of cocaine in some major US cities, along with an increase in additives detected in regular checks of cocaine. It is likely that over the medium term the price of cocaine will remain high, as supplies are disrupted fairly often. How Europe controls transit. The EU is also considering using funds from its Instrument for Stability, which are budgeted for the period , in projects to fight against trafficking in cocaine and heroin. So long as there are territories for traffickers to evade control —often territories in countries with very fragile structures of governance— organised crime gangs can seek alternative routes and avoid seizures and criminal prosecution.
From a European perspective, the rule that should govern transit control should be the following: the smaller the radius of the circle of enhanced monitoring, the easier it will be to control a maximum number of possible transit routes. Given the empirical fact that the price of drugs tends to rise gradually when they get closer to the external borders of Europe, it seems a good idea to establish a rather small control circle around the EU.
So far the most important operational measure within the EU has been the creation of the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre-Narcotics, based in Lisbon. It features active participation from seven EU member states, including Spain. The centre has an operational mandate, and coordinates tasks of monitoring and enforcing maritime areas and air space over European waters.
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This job of keeping watch over the Atlantic is made necessary by the rise in cocaine trafficking to Europe in recent years and the growing importance of West Africa as a staging ground for trafficking into Europe. In its first year of operations, this anti-drug agency coordinated the seizure of nearly 30 tonnes of cocaine. Seizures that are just occasional —as opposed to systematic— only contribute to causing drug lords to move their current trafficking routes, and not to cutting them off or decreasing their number over the mid- and long term.
Drug trafficking rings learn quickly, and are flexible enough to adjust their strategies in response to those of government authorities. With the fall off the Cali and Medellin cartels in Colombia in the s, the hierarchical, pyramid-style structure in drug trafficking is now more the exception than the rule, although it seems this model has re-emerged in Mexico in a big way. The common structure in transatlantic drug trafficking is similar to horizontal networks, with smaller groups that interact autonomously and lack a vertical command structure.
These organisational structures are more like a holding company than the legendary figure of an all-powerful overseer. The advantage of this for organised criminals is that these decentralised structures cannot be wiped out with one definitive blow, as happened with Medellin cartel after the death of Pablo Escobar. The individual components of these organisations tend to interact without actually knowing their counterparts or possible bosses.
The organisations can easily replace lower-level links, quickly filling holes left by arrests or violence waged by other groups. The constant interaction between law enforcement agencies and organised crime is similar to an arms race. The costs for both sides rise constantly, while neither can take advantage of their largest investments, which are swiftly neutralised. Unlike legal trade, trafficking in illicit goods does not tend to get more efficient over the long term. Rather, it becomes less economical and more costly.
Covering greater distances and crossing new borders raises costs for traffickers, but this is still cheaper than losing product and human resources. This is not what is expected for the member states of the OECD, nor for drug trafficking networks, which tend to have abundant resources. However, many of the fragile states of West Africa which are affected by cocaine trafficking are very close to such a situation, if they have not already reached it.
For a long time, the EU and its member states have limited their activities in the effort to control the supply of drugs mainly to political dialogue and implementing alternative development programmes. Since the US cooperated with drug-producing and transit countries in Latin America, it was easy for Europe to let the Americans take the lead.
As most cocaine-smuggling routes were the traditional ones —before the new African path to Europe was established— there were not many reasons either for the Europeans to react autonomously. These days, the African route, the growing consumption of cocaine in Europe and the amount of cocaine flooding the continent are forcing European countries to reconsider EU drug policy. Over the mid-term, the EU will have to make a greater effort of its own to control not just demand for but also the supply of cocaine. Countries such as Spain, the UK and Italy, which are suffering from a veritable epidemic of cocaine, will have to exert pressure within the EU for a repositioning of drug control policy.
The US has done very little on drugs in West Africa. The resources that the US had budgeted for this area are insignificant compared with the money aimed at Latin America, is limited to just a few countries and tends to be linked to the fight against Islamic terrorism. But at the same time, in West Africa a safe haven has been set up for drug trafficking, relatively close to the European continent. How will the EU and its member states react effectively to this challenge? Controlling transit in a strict sense In the first place, it will be necessary to intensify control over the transit of drugs around Europe.
Some steps to this effect are being developed. However, what has prevailed so far have been occasional measures with no perceivable strategic underpinning. These measures will probably be neutralised quickly by the flexible responses of drug traffickers. For this reason, a systematic and planned procedure is needed urgently. One can expect an increase in cocaine trafficking through West Africa and growing involvement by West African networks, going beyond simply acting as intermediaries and helpers. It is likely that African groups will take over segments of the commercial chain that are in the hands of South Americans who still dominate the transatlantic trade.
The growing use of cocaine as currency, something similar to what used to happen with Mexican middlemen whom Colombian cartels paid in cocaine, establishes a second source of cocaine flow to Europe. Conditions are more favourable for the EU than for the US in the fight against cocaine trafficking.
The analogy between Mexico and West Africa as transit areas is inaccurate. In the first place, Europe does not share a land border with Africa. Secondly, the volume of legal commerce and transit of persons between Africa and Europe is minimal compared to the goods and people that cross the US-Mexican border every day. Every month, nearly 9 million vehicles cross that land border spanning more than 3, km, and to this one must add intense air and maritime traffic.
Mexico is the third-largest importer of goods from the US. The 10, containers that arrive in European ports every month from West Africa are few compared to the US-Mexico case. Furthermore, regular air and maritime traffic is much more limited between Europe and its neighbours to the south. This raises the chances of successfully implementing systematic transit controls. The time has come to take a qualitative step forward in EU policy on controlling common borders. Controlling transit routes for drug trafficking should feature as a fundamental element of EU border cooperation, as in the case of FRONTEX in the fight against illegal immigration.
Trafficking routes to Europe should be monitored around the EU. Progress can be made against international organised crime groups only when their ability to establish alternative routes and territories is cut off. Anti-drug cooperation should be based on a broad concept of what a border is, similar to the operations staged by FRONTEX, which include member states carrying out maritime patrols off the coast of West Africa.
If there is only a strengthening of controls over Atlantic routes, flows of cocaine from West Africa might shift to North Africa, taking advantage of abundant traditional routes used for smuggling marijuana.
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From there, just like marijuana, cocaine can reach southern Europe across the Mediterranean. In order to avoid these shifts and keep European law enforcement authorities from having to play a game of cat and mouse with drug traffickers, it would be a good idea to coordinate external control of the fight against drug trafficking under the umbrella of FRONTEX or an EU body based within MAOC-N. Its organisational structure is not designed for such operations and does not have sufficient capabilities, nor are the foundations of its activities clearly defined in legal terms.
In this way, the information gathered by national agencies could be centralized and made available to that potential European agency. Responsibility for controlling drug trafficking has been divided between directorates of the European Commission and the European Council on one hand, and member states on the other, and this has led to fragmentation of EU drug policies.
At the same time, the abandonment of a single European anti-drug budget allocation and the financing of relevant projects through regional or national budgets have contributed to this counterproductive fragmentation. And this makes it practically impossible to establish a European policy for curtailing the supply of drugs.
So the conditions for developing and adopting a consistent and systematic European policy for international control of narcotics are not currently optimal. Controlling transit in a broad sense As organised crime gangs are skilled at evasion and at finding alternative transit territories and routes in countries with limited or non-existent governance structures, the model for enhanced control of drug trafficking might soon reach its limit.
As part of a two-pronged strategy, the focus on systematic control and interdiction of drug trafficking must be complemented by measures that discourage illegal activities in regions with fragile government. In other words, one must close the loopholes organised criminals resort to and this should be done by raising the cost of engaging in illegal activities in those countries.
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