4/10/2023 - Politics and Society

Drug trafficking: Colombia and the United States

By Delfina Santamarina

Drug trafficking: Colombia and the United States

In this opportunity, we propose to present a writing on Colombian drug trafficking. In this case, we talk about a situation in which three actors mainly intervene: Colombia, Mexican Organizations (Mexican Cars) and the United States as a third actor, importer of the Colombian drug.

The US is the world's leading cocaine consumer, although its consumption has declined. This data will be taken as an analysis to ask us: Why are the United States the main consumer of the drug that most violence generates in the world? , and so, does its decrease intervene in the supply , what changes experienced this low demand in the US?

In this way, we will try to answer both questions, as well as expose the situation between these three actors (incorporating Mexican organizations), the drug itself and its international reach.

Drug trafficking

First of all, do we ask what is the “narcotrafficking”? Narcotrafficking refers to illegal trade in large amounts of toxic drugs. Here we talk specifically about the export of cocaine, where its producers earn a lot of money; it is considered a totally profitable business.

The UN has done a statistical study on illicit drug use globally (with little information it has obtained, since being a totally illegal business, information is scarce). In this sense, there are about 250 million consumers worldwide. This is a problem because the business cannot disappear from one day to the next; not only because it is a profitable business and who manage it gets a great purchasing power of it, thus becoming a powerful sector, but also by the drug type of which one speaks. By being drugs that produce high levels of dependence, stopping the same would imply that their usual consumers “will stop working”. In turn, increased demand produces that the market continues to work, enriching marginalized sectors like producers and generating new employment.


Cocaine is an illegal drug of natural origin, as it occurs from the coca leaf. This leaf is a scarce natural resource, by climatic, geographical aspects, among others. In this way, the harvest is carried out only in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. It is for this reason that the production of cocaine is totally limited and these three producers are the only ones worldwide, transforming it into an extremely expensive drug and involving large levels of violence, which positions these three countries as one of the most insecure and conflicting intertactly.

Cocaine and export have been an international problem. Today they are part of the agenda, because as I said earlier, it has become a very violent transnational actor.

We consider it important to highlight the problem of the coca leaf harvest. Both in Colombia and Peru, the cultivation of it is illegal. It is not the same with Bolivia, because cultivation is legal, but there are limiting to production, as a maximum number of cultivation. But reality exceeds that allowed number.

Here is a quote from Roberto Saviano specifying and giving details on the sale and export of the Colombian drug:

" A kilogram of cocaine is sold in Colombia to $1,500, in Mx between 12000 and 16000, in the US to 27000, in Spain to 46000, in the Netherlands to 47,000, in Italy 57,000 and R.U. 77,000” (Roberto Saviano, 2014).

Drug traffic from Colombia to the United States

As I said, Colombia is one of the three world producers of cocaine. Twenty-three cocalera basins were released throughout the country. Colombia exports 70% of cocaine worldwide, thus becoming the leading producer of cocaine, surpassing the percentages of Peru and Bolivia.

Now, as we said earlier, the United States has historically been the main importer of this Colombian cocaine.

From this clarification there are several questions we propose to answer.

First, how does Colombian cocaine reach the United States? Through the Mexican posters.

Mexican posters are organizations in Mexico that are mainly responsible for transporting the drug from Colombia to the United States. This is how these organizations take advantage of the different cocaine routes to the North-Amerian country to export different illegal goods and services themselves.

Secondly, what routes are used to enter these illegal goods and services into the United States? Previously, they aired. In 2008, this began to change, because American consumption also decreased. Now the route used is specifically:

- Pacific route: by sea. It's the most usual route for what cocaine enters along with the different illegal goods and services. It has been observed that cocaine travels from Colombia, all for it peaceful, to Porto Escondido, from there to “Tepito” in Mexico City by land and there to Los Angeles, California.

According to a UN report on the transnational cocaine market, 70% of seizures occurred in oceans, seas and ports.

As for the decrease in US cocaine consumption, in 2011 it was seen that statistically this was real. Thus, the US demand for Colombian cocaine has decreased. Now, what happens with the Colombian drug supply, since its main importer has decreased the consumption of the good they offer? We can observe that this has not suffered great turbulence in exporting your product. It was known that the illegal market was able to find other points of sale which caused continuity in demand, without it stagnating despite the decrease in American consumption. The demand of the drug has reached all over the world, because drug trafficking has expanded by finding different export enclaves.

In this way, Colombia exports cocaine to these places as well: Latin America, Europe, Southeast Europe, Africa (in fact, they knew how to enter the drug into Europe), and very little in Oceania. However, and despite reducing its consumption, the US remains the main consumer of the Colombian drug.

If we look at percentage numbers the amount of cocaine entering the United States is 80% of the total Colombian cocaine, where the sum of the rest of the countries only covers 20%.

As a third and last question of this analysis, we should ask: Why are the United States leading cocaine users?

Ricardo Vargas wrote in 2017 an article for the medium "Razón Pública" where it demonstrates that the increase in consumption of this substance is related to various internal aspects of the United States, these are:

1. Socioeconomic, cultural and experience problems in drug use,

2. Practices that indicate ignorance, but learning in the management of psychoactives,

3. Wild commercial interests that ignore the ethical minimums and end up in problems of corruption and institutional crisis,

4. Prohibitionist strategies that make it difficult to manage the problem as a public health issue where the fundamental rights of users must prevail.

We conclude that these aspects were difficult to control and, in some way, were unknown by the senior officials in charge of making decisions. Thus, American consumption remains active, despite its decrease, and the Colombian supply of cocaine has grown thanks to the global demand of the drug that more violence generates internationally.

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delfina santamarina

Delfina Santamarina

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