Money, drugs and a gun on a wooden table – The term ‘drug’has become a common phrase in the present context of news and conversation around the world. It can be classified into two forms, ‘abusing’ or ‘peddling’. ‘Drug abuse’is the use of drugs by becoming a hypochondriac to satisfy one’s concealed pleasure. It becomes destructive when the user gets hallucinated under the influence of such drugs consumed repeatedly – leading into a serious compulsion. Drug menace has today become a serious issue affecting all sections of the society.
Eighty per cent of the world population is believed to be using marijuanaor cannabis, as a commonly popular drug. Although it comes under the ‘Controlled Drug’category, yet it is easily available. People use it by smoking, vaporizing or as an extract for mental and physical effects. Statistics reveal, between 128 and 232 million people used cannabis in 2013, making it the most commonly used drug the world.
International law enforcing authorities try their best by taking stringent steps to control this menace, however, the ‘drug peddlers’have found multitude of ways and means to smuggle drugs using ‘black’ money to bribe corrupt officials, making drug dealing a lucrative business.
Statistics from Sri Lanka Department of Prisons show 11,171 persons have been sentenced to jail for narcotic crimes. It is only the tip of the iceberg. Recently it was highlighted to what extent criminals in prisons are dealing with drugs, even using mobile phones!
In the UK too, a news explosive on 21 August 2018, revealed how drugs had managed to enter a prison, which was managed by a private contractor. The exposure made the Government to take over one of the biggest jails in Britain, HMP at Birmingham, of private hands . It had been controlled by a private contractor since 2011.
Due to overpowering smell of drugs, 1,200 inmates had been forced to leave one wing of the Birmingham prison, described as in a diabolical condition, where not only ‘normal’ prisoners were terrified, but the prison guards too. Ceylon Today news on 1 September, revealed how Sri Lankan President Sirisena too called for collective action to thwart drug smuggling and trafficking along maritime routes.
The writer watched a drama series about a Mexican drug lord while he was abroad in Netflix TV, which is not available in Sri Lanka. Here a Mexican named ‘El Chapo’ (Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera) became the Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003. Having dropped out of school in grade three, he started cultivation of opium poppy initially – a common practice among local residents. At the age of 15, he cultivated his own marijuana plantation.
El Chapo was considered as one of the most powerful people in the world, ranking 41 st, 60th, and 55th, respectively. The US Federal Government considered him as the ‘most ruthless, dangerous, and feared man on the planet’. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) named him as ‘Godfather of the drug world’.
With his revolver always tucked behind his waist, killing to him was akin to swatting a mosquito to an ‘ordinary’ person. Yet, when his own son was killed by a rival gang, he appeared distressed and completely a shattered man! Without any formal education, he emerged with the knack of running a dangerous business for many years, taking risks all the time, using millions of dollars to bribe almost every official or prison guard he confronted.
What free money can do
His first experience in jail was rough; had to repeatedly spend in solitary confinement for months. A siren installed in front of his cell, screaming 24/7, did not manage to disturb his warped mind, yet at the end of it all, when money started ‘to do the talking’ along with his undeviating way of approaching any official (even the head of the Mexican Police) started to work in his favour. After all, the human being is a funny animal, and whatever position one holds in society, he becomes susceptible and greedy for cash, when millions are thrown at one’s feet – undoubtedly, everyone likes to enjoy luxuries, especially with ‘free money’.
The TV series showed how marijuana arrived in his drug factories in bulk; also how they were packed and concealed into containers for shipments, with layers of tomatoes and courgette concealing those drug bundles; also, inside the heels of new shoes. Who would suspect a shipment of new shoes arriving at a port, where drugs are neatly packed inside heels? The series gave an insight to international authorities, especially Border Control Customs officials, to what extent these drug dealers use devious means to trans-ship drugs.Undoubtedly, it is impossible to check every shipment physically and individually, unless someone lets the cat out of the bag!
In observing such deceitful maneuvers, it boggles one’s mind in thinking as to why electronic surveillances have not yet been developed to detect illicit drug movements in this digital age? Sometime back, when illegal immigration caused a problem in the Western world, where racketeers used to conceal human cargo inside containers , electronic surveillances were used to detect any obscured human cargo within container walls and floor boards, while juggernauts crossed the English Channel.
The Sinaloa Cartel, was also known as ‘Guzmán-Loera Organization’ and ‘Pacific Cartel’. It was a criminal organization whose objective was to deal with drug smuggling and trading operations. It had been established during the mid-1980s in the city of México. The US Intelligence considered the Sinaloa Cartel the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world. El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel had transported tons of cocaine from Colombia, through Mexico, to the United States – considered to be the world’s top consumer.
The Cartel established distribution cells throughout the US. The organisation had been involved in the production, smuggling, and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine (synthetic drug with more rapid and lasting effects than amphetamine, marijuana ecstasy [MDMA] and heroin) across both North America and Europe. In 2014, El Chapo had exported more drugs to the US than anyone else – more than 500 tons (500,000 kg) of cocaine alone.
El Chapo was first captured in 1993 in Guatemala, and extradited back to Mexico, and sentenced to a 20-year prison sentence for murder and drug trafficking. With millions of dollars, of which he had no account of, he managed to bribe prison guards in bundle loads in gunny bags, and escaped from a Federal maximum-security prison in 2001. Governments of Mexico, the United States, and the Interpol were hunting for him, while the US offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture, and the Mexican Government offered a reward of $3.8 million.
He was arrested again by Mexican Authorities on 22 February 2014, inside a fourth-floor condominium in the Municipality of Mazatán in Chiapas, Sinaloa, and sent to prison. El Chapo managed to escape once again on 11 July 2015 from a maximum-security prison in Altiplano – through a specially dug 1.5 km tunnel, embarrassing the Mexican Authorities.
A video of the escapee’s getaway made public at the time, clearly indicated ‘a loud hammering noise’ on the TV footage before Guzman slipped through a hole in the cell floor into the tunnel beneath the prison. Finally, El Chapo was extradited to the US. He faced criminal charges on 19 January 2017, in connection with his activities of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Some policy experts maintain as to why ‘war on drugs’has been a failure for decades due to unsuccessful strategies and programmes. The experts at the Institute for Policy Studies state that “since drugs are always in demand and highly profitable, dismantling one drug trafficking organisation doesn’t just extinguish the drug trade that work within the group’. The result being, another drug trafficking organisation replaces it, filling the same demand that the old group filled.
That is the reason why the drug trade simply has moved from Colombia to Mexico after a US-sponsored anti-drug campaign in Colombia; and the end of one drug trafficking organization in Mexico just seems to spawn another. Experts suggest that ‘one of the primary goals of the drug war is to make drugs more expensive by limiting their supply. Th idea being that a drug habit is much more difficult to sustain, if drugs are more expensive. By the same token, it makes drugs immensely profitable!”
UK’s largest raid
At the time of concluding this article, BBC London TV disclosed a massive drug burst at Farnborough Airport in Kent, where British Authorities managed to seize a staggering £50 million (Rs.100,000 million) worth of drugs, when a private jet arrived from Colombia, with four people. Five-hundred kilograms of cocaine haul, which was believed to be one of the largest drug raids of its kind in the UK.
pic.Credit; Independent UK, stock pictures and Independent, UK