Cocaine capitalism: part two

(For part one click here)

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 95, June/July 1990


‘It is a sad commentary on the state of mankind at the end of the twentieth century that the bulk of our vast productive energies is devoted to our own destruction’. So lamented UN Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar during April’s World Ministerial Summit on Drugs in London. Illegal narcotics now exceed oil and automobiles and are second only to weapons as the world’s most valuable trade. Each year they pump an additional $300 billion through the capitalist banking system. Drugs house soldiers in palaces, furnish police and customs officials with luxury, buy guns and missiles for Afghan and Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries, prop up entire Latin American economies and fend off a multi-national banking collapse triggered by the unpayable trillion-dollar Third World debt. TREVOR RAYNE continues his examination of the drugs trade.

Like all capitalist wealth, drug profits are wrung out of the misery and squalor of the oppressed: the 130 million Latin Americans in hunger and poverty who provide the child assassins for the drug barons’ armies; the peasant coca farmers who receive 0.5 per cent of cocaine’s final retail price; the 45 per cent of black and 39 per cent of Hispanic children born in the USA who exist below the poverty line; the street corner lookouts earning $35 for a twelve hour shift with an expectancy of three to six months ‘work’ before arrest and imprisonment. 23 per cent of US black men aged 20-29 are in gaol, on parole or probation. For every two young black US males who gain entry into higher education, three are held in some form of custody. This is cocaine capitalism, the face behind the dazzle from the designer sunglasses of Miami Vice.

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Cocaine capitalism: part one

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 92, January 1990

'Cocaine capitalism' examines the cocaine trade in two parts. In part one TREVOR RAYNE examines the economic conditions that have generated the most profitable industry in Latin America. Part two looks at its political consequences, links with counter-revolution and impacts on US cities and the banks.

President Bush redeclared ‘War on Drugs’. The British government dispatched a frigate and 50 military and police officers to Colombia. Police are raiding downtown Los Angeles and Tottenham. It is captivating headline stuff – for a fortnight. Three months after Bush signalled his intent to crush the drug trade, his ‘drug czar’ William Bennett is denying rumours that he is threatening to resign because of the lack of progress made.

The world’s illegal drug trade is valued at $500bn. Cocaine is the world’s most profitable item of trade. Its worth, at wholesale prices, varies between five and seven times its weight in gold. Annual cocaine production generates approximately twice the revenue of the world’s output of gold. Colombia alone produces sufficient for five billion dosages a year which would retail at between $20bn and $100bn, depending on the degree of purity and markets used. Los Angeles’ Federal Reserve Bank reported a $3.8bn cash surplus earlier this year as money laundering diversifies out of Florida. The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee issued a report describing Britain as an ‘off-shore banking centre’ for drug traffickers, who are circulating an estimated £1.8bn through the British financial system.

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Sound the alarm! – US invasion of Panama

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 93 February/March 1990

panama US invasion 1

‘A growing challenge to US interests and national security strategy is so-called low-intensity conflict… The nature of US interests around the world will require that US forces be globally deployable, often with little or no warning.’ – US Army Chief of Staff, General Carl Vuono in ‘Panama: training ground for future conflict’, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 13 January 1990

The 20 December invasion of Panama is the largest US military operation since the Vietnam War. It included the biggest US paratroop assault since the Allied airdrop on Arnhem in September 1944. Coming within a month of US Airforce intervention in the Philippines it demonstrated US imperialism testing its armed forces, its political will, international and domestic reaction in the context of the break-up of the socialist bloc. Fidel Castro described it as ‘a humiliating slap in the face to the Soviet peace policy’. Ominously, polls showed 80 per cent of US people supporting the assault. TREVOR RAYNE and KEN HUGHES report.

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Trump, Puerto Rico and colonialism

trump puerto rico

After days of dragging his feet, US President Trump finally authorised a temporary waiver of a century-old shipping law on 28 September to allow aid to be sent to the US colony Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The Category 4 storm destroyed the island’s power grid and 80% of its agriculture. About 50% of the island is without clean water, food supplies are running low and hospital generators are failing. Infrastructure is severely damaged and the Guajataca Dam in the northwest of the island is at risk of failing.

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US interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean since 1945

Less than two weeks after the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly election on 30 July, US President Trump threatened the country with direct military action. This was the latest example of US imperialism’s history of intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean since the end of the Second World War. Such intervention has consisted mostly of undermining any government that threatens its interests through the use of economic warfare, and by funnelling money, arms and intelligence into right-wing opposition groups. However, in a few instances, it has involved direct military intervention (Dominican Republic, Grenada and Panama).

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