The Nukak Makú, caught in between “Para-Politics” investigators under threat
Apr 292008

Last fall, I was part of a group that visited the Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force that monitors suspected drug trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean. We were shown a PowerPoint presentation that included maps showing the tracks of suspected drug-trafficking flights and boats. Officials denied our request for a copy of these maps.

These must not have been too secret, though, since they showed up yesterday in a presentation that Drug Czar John Walters gave to reporters at the State Department’s Foreign Press Center. Walters was arguing that Venezuela is now a key vector for cocaine trafficking between Colombia and Europe.

These and earlier slides indicate that U.S. radar images do not cover the eastern third of Venezuela, including the highly volatile Orinoco delta region. (Little cocaine moved that far east actually ends up in the United States.)

The map of suspect flights is nonetheless interesting, showing heavy traffic between Venezuela and both the Dominican Republic and Guatemala’s Petén region. Note the concentration of takeoffs from Venezuelan airstrips just across the border from Colombia’s department of Vichada. Venezuela clearly has a problem with control of its airspace.

Another story entirely is told by the monitoring of “go-fast” boats and other maritime drug trafficking – which accounts for a much higher portion of total drug trafficking. Here, the vast majority of suspect traffic originates from Colombia’s coasts.

Similar maps covering 2005 are in a long-ago post.

13 Responses to “Maps of detected trafficking routes”

  1. Chris Says:

    The Venezuelans had a recent military operation that concentrated on eliminating illegal airstrips in the same area just a couple of weeks ago. At this time, the Venezuelan legislature is proposing a new law that would allow its air forces (their new Russian Sukhois) to intercept, target and shoot down planes illegally traversing Venezuelan airspace, specifically drug planes.

    Don’t know how it will pan out for Venezuela, but I doubt there is any serious effort to halt the drug trade given the level of corruption in the Venezuelan government. If anything, they’ll probably target those drug cartels that rival the cartels they’re in bed with.

    The US Govt provided Colombia a lot of $$$ to shore up its equivalent of a Coast Guard; however, I always questioned the Colombian Navy’s use of the latter funds. They seemed more interested in purchasing naval platforms that would enhance their capabilities in a conflict with Nicaragua or Venezuela. There should be more emphasis on their littoral navy vice their feeble attempt to pursue something of a blue navy.

    The US govt should probably pressure the Colombian Navy to focus on their coast guard once again, although I totally agree with something I read in earlier posts that mentioned focusing our efforts on drug rehabilitation. I’ve read a lot of interesting reports citing the advantages of a rehabilitation policy over a military type solution to the drug problem. Why not try the former…the later has worked yet.

  2. Chris Says:

    The Venezuelans had a recent military operation that concentrated on eliminating illegal airstrips in the same area just a couple of weeks ago. At this time, the Venezuelan legislature is proposing a new law that would allow its air forces (their new Russian Sukhois) to intercept, target and shoot down planes illegally traversing Venezuelan airspace, specifically drug planes.

    Don’t know how it will pan out for Venezuela, but I doubt there is any serious effort to halt the drug trade given the level of corruption in the Venezuelan government. If anything, they’ll probably target those drug cartels that rival the cartels they’re in bed with.

    The US Govt provided Colombia a lot of $$$ to shore up its equivalent of a Coast Guard; however, I always questioned the Colombian Navy’s use of the latter funds. They seemed more interested in purchasing naval platforms that would enhance their capabilities in a conflict with Nicaragua or Venezuela. There should be more emphasis on their littoral navy vice their feeble attempt to pursue something of a blue navy.

    The US govt should probably pressure the Colombian Navy to focus on their coast guard once again, although I totally agree with something I read in earlier posts that mentioned focusing our efforts on drug rehabilitation. I’ve read a lot of interesting reports citing the advantages of a rehabilitation policy over a military type solution to the drug problem. Why not try the former…the latter hasn’t worked yet.

  3. Alejandro Pelaez Says:

    Nice!!!

  4. Anon Says:

    How come the DR isn’t pointed to as a key nexus of cocaine trafficking too? If you look at the slides, the flights from Venezuela end up in the DR, and something tells me it’s not the Dominicans consuming all those drugs. So why is it Venezuela that’s the one getting criticized for not doing enough to stop drug trafficking? Wouldn’t it be just as fair to point to the DR and accuse them of the same?

  5. Chris Says:

    Absolutely…the DR, Venezuela, Colombia, U.S., Europe….damn near the whole world contributes in one way or another.

  6. Katie Says:

    The “war on drugs” is a complete and utter waste of time. And if anyone legitimately needs to be put on medication, it’s “Drug Czar” John Walters. Luckily, people are waking up to both of those facts, and getting fed up with this charade. After 35 years, and hundreds of billions down the drain, what has been accomplished? I challenge anyone to tell me one positive result that’s accrued from the war on drugs.

  7. maremoto Says:

    Hi Katie,

    to comment on your words:

    “I challenge anyone to tell me one positive result that’s accrued from the war on drugs.”

    Unfortunately, if you were to ever have the opportunity to discuss frankly this question of positive results with the people who do benefit you would get an earful of how corrupt the whole war on drugs farce really is and how deep it goes into the economic and moral fiber of the society and the justice system that has not just tolerated such injustice but thrived on it. Believe me, there are plenty of benefits for some people, right here in the US and around the world wherever there are governments willing to act without morals or a sense of community.

    The US Congress has had for many years folks with the best education known to man such as that acquired at Ivy League universities and others. These people are not dumb. They had Prohibition and were able to observe the results of such policies on society and, as one of its effects, the ensuing accumulation of illicit wealth which suddenly becomes accessible for forfeiture and kept by the forfeiting agencies(s) for “law enforcement purposes”. (check out GAO’s reports on forfeiture “revenue”) Forget about the fact that legendary proportions of violence are unleashed with the creation of such an unregulated black market. Think of Colombia as Chicago of the 1930’s but to epic proportions. Besides it’s perfect for passing laws which have circumvented and diminished our right to privacy, property and just generally being able to expect that as long as I’m not hurting anybody the government should stay out of one’s life.

    You know at one point the US Customs commissioner (1980’s) advocated that if your son or daughter got caught smoking pot in your car the car should be eligible for forfeiture. Yep, just like that. The word thief comes to mind. And guess what the judges used to say (until so many injustices were committed that they had to act) that it was the property’s fault; never mind that a thing doesn’t have a will of its own, no it is guilty anyways and now it belongs to the government. Accomplices is what that’s called.

    There’s a very well researched treatise on the sinister economic aspect of the war on drugs done by two Ivy League professors a few years ago

    just Google “Policing for Profit”

    and on the fact itself that criminalizing a public health issue is exponentially the least effective way of handling the issue you should check out ONDCP’s own RAND report titled “Controlling Cocaine” I guess the (drumroll) “Drug Czar” thought these people at RAND (a really old conservative think tank which has done much research for the Pentagon for decades) could be counted on to snap back that good old fascist salute and boy was he surprised to learn that there is still integrity left in our scientists. I think it said interdiction was 35 times less affective as treatment but treatment doesn’t require expensive planes and excuses to go invade other countries because, of course, it provides plenty of leverage and blackmail material for all the drug trafficking politicians in Latin America. Geopolitical interests I believe it’s called over at the Pax Americana folks.

    best regards

  8. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Interesting opinion Katie and Maremoto – back you up all the way.

    Interestingly too, no single flight seems to be shown taking off, in the uppermost powerpoint cartoon , from the Rio Negro Airport, the stronghold of cocaine traffic, near Medellin Colombia.

  9. maremoto Says:

    Thanks Jaime,

    wanted to correct one small thing about RAND

    this story on alternet.org is an extremely frank description of RAND’s role in shaping American society

    http://www.alternet.org/audits/83910/

    I’m not shilling for alternet and I hope posting this link is not offensive to the editor; all in the spirit of debate

  10. Jaime Bustos Says:

    maremoto you seem aware of how things are handled in this world.

    Most of the cocaine traffic profit goes to feed wars as Reagan so conspicuously demonstrated and as his successors have not worried to hide much.

    Another part merges in the economies of the countries, some goes to secret societiy club members and what is left to drug traffickers.

    You can gain more insight into the powerpoint presentations Adam published by reading this

    Cocaine planes make a “Bogotá Connection”

  11. lirelou Says:

    The problem with any information on the Drug War that SOUTHCOM puts out is that they are not the experts. Rather they are an organization that provides limited support to the war on drugs. DEA and the Customs Service are the experts, and they are not always on the same sheet of music. And as either of those two would point out, the problem with statistics analyzing drug events into the United States is that they depend upon either actual seizures, or a paradigm of “events underway”. Both, by their very nature, merely a partial, and therefore very incomplete, picture.

    By the way, no one has mentioned how close the Dominican Republic is to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, from where goods can transit to the U.S. without any Customs inspection. Where are the red lines from the D.R. to Puerto RIco, and from Puerto Rico up to the U.S.?

    The Drug War was lost when they made McCaffery the Drug Czar. He was a clown more interested in turf wars than bringing down any of the cartels. (Yes, you can be an honest, bright, articulate, egotistical supreme manager and still be a goddamned clown.)

  12. Guille Says:

    I remember the Dominican Republic’s Congress trying to approve legislation on shooting down illegal aircrafts as a final decision, right away the U.S. ambassador sitting in Dominican Republic jumped saying that that was not such good idea or something..? The Dominicans responded correctly, it is not his business to tell how Dominicans should control their airspace, it is exclusively DR sovereignty.

    For me, it is quite suspicious, of course, drugs is a big business and indeed, vast majority of that drug coming from Colombia ends in the U.S, where the big sellers are.

  13. gary Says:

    war on drugs=joke. Waste of time and money…i laugh my arse off everytime i see customs ect showing off their catch..doesn’t mean crap and doesn’t stop anything.

    use all those wasted billions of dollars on education…

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