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Cocaine: Counting and Miscounting

Pierre SALAMA[*]

The nature of cocaine is such that it can encompass a wide range of elements: economic, political, social and symbolic all in one. The economic, considering the enormous sums at stake; the political lured by this rich manna; the social thanks to the monetary fallout and the bonds of clientelism which can be funded by these sums; and last but not least, the symbolic element as of traffic-engendered sublimation of violence. Prohibition of production and consumption make drugs a source of enrichment and violence. Riches for traffickers, and for those they buy off to the credit of interdiction and repression. Sumptuary expenditures, distribution of a part of the earnings as manna to those in « bondage » and those who are yet to be purchased. Violence between traffickers, and against the state which it eats up; violence in the marketing of cocaine; violence as these monies suffer their metamorphosis into laundered riches; and ultimately, violence and corruption, two closely tied and complementary elements. In short, anomie.

This paper limits itself to some aspects of the drug economy. Once covered, in the first part of the analysis, the difficulties faced in estimating drug production and marketing as well as repatriation-laundering of proceeds from this illicit economic activity, our analysis addresses two other aspects. In the second section, we focus on the changes suffered by conditions pertaining to cocaine and opium supply, the impact of repressive measures, and noticeable changes in the balance of power between Colombian and Mexican criminal organizations as concerns exploitation of « routes » into the USA, which has tilted to the profit of the latter. The third and last topic dealt with refers to microeconomic income, the manna doled out, and corruption; the role played by these factors in disaggregating civil society: violence takes its course as criminal organizations are destabilized and further fragmented by rising repression.

Text for the international forum -Criminalization of Power and the Drug Traffic- held in Gualdalajara and sponsored by the University of Gualdalajara and the Greitd-cluny . Article published in French in Recherches Internationales No.2 2001.

[*] Professeur, CEPN-Cnrs et Greitd

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