FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Politics of Cocaine

by

Every morning at 5:30 I went for a 4 kilometer run. I got up this early for two reasons: the town downriver (Piñipampa) stopped burning tires to kindle their roof tile ovens—fueled by forced child labor—and I also had to teach English and Philosophy classes uptown by 7:45 a.m.

I ran for 20 minutes. I considered it a successful jaunt because I lived at two miles in altitude, in the seat of Peru’s Andes. To be honest, this jog was virtually impossible without a great deal of help from the coca leaf. I put a handful of the leaves into my mouth along with the yipfta (Quechua for “quinoa straw ash”) in order to catalyze the plant’s crystalline tropane alkaloid: cocaine. I chewed as I stretched, and I extracted the mild cocaine while masticating the ball of leaves between my tongue, gums and cheeks. The sensation resembled that of dentist’s anesthetic gel. I started to feel invigorated, to feel more energized, yet without a trace of thirst or too much pain in my joints; my asthma all but disappeared.

The coca leaf was a wonderful addition to my morning routine. I ran by my neighbors who also enjoyed the coca leaf’s psychoactive alkaloid. I smiled at my neighbors, already in their cornfields and greet those on their way to the fields. I even ran by a handful of my students who, awake since 4 a.m., were tending their corn crops before the school day. In a very urbane sense, we collectively doped ourselves at the start of each day.

We Unitedstatesians are a cocaine-loving people, too. But we love ‘coke’ in very different way. We snort it, rub it on our gums, and there’s no shortage of creativity as to how we usher it into our system. I do not think anyone could successfully deny our love affair with the thing. All the skeptic needs to do is look at the statistics vis-à-vis our consumption and cocaine-related crimes and deaths. In fact, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health done a few years ago, nearly 1.5 million Americans met the criteria for abusing cocaine or being dependent on it. Another report gathers that, in the same year, nearly 25% of all emergency room visits involved with drug abuse was cocaine-related. But the statistics that evince our connection become little more than white noise when we examine the little coca leaf in its greater context.

Given its output of the narcotic, it is evident that Peru does a lot to sustain US Americans in their naughty habit. But these facts do nothing to alter the simpler truth that there must to be a market—such as we provide—in order for such enormous quantities of this drug to be so lucratively attractive. Peru, the country where I lived a year ago, was the world’s largest coca leaf producer in the mid-1990s. Thanks to the production of two hundred and some metric tons of potential blow, Peru is more or less the world’s second largest producer of cocaine today. Furthermore, the market that we provide for cocaine to exist is firmly predicated on our spending. Our support of the drug trade is invariably formidable. In fact, were we not so good at providing Latin American countries like Peru with such lucrative drug markets, peasant farming at such latitudes might concern itself much less with growing these illicit cash crops for drug manufacture. In fact, the coca plant would cease to be a cash crop! Were Peruvians left to their own devices, I am positive that the demand for production in coca-farming would plummet whilst falling back to the harmless, small scale of consumption I witnessed every morning on my runs.

As I watched Peruvians struggle every day to comply with a work week that resembled something inhumane in contrast to the popular precedent for what US domestic work standards ought to be, the coca cash crop made a lot of sense. When the world’s only super industrialized country has such a voracious appetite for something, who would forfeit the chance to capitalize on that opportunity? But even this foregoing speculation is specious. Luckily, this question leads us to the root cause of the issue: If people in Peru truly enjoyed an authentic species of privilege, they would not be forced into growing crops for the sake of furnishing America with its narcotic decadence.

America has strung the carrot from the stick and waved it in front of countries like Peru for decades, insisting that the Yankee genus of development is an actually attainable, worthwhile pursuit. Countries like Peru need only fasten their belt a little bit more, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and abandon the malevolent coca crop cultivation to realize their dreams. Without shame, America pretends that cocaine production and coca cash crops are both regressive steps along the path to the development which Peru may dare to achieve. All in the name of development, a single plant is then wholesale and morally demonized, all because Mommy and Daddy cannot understand why their 11th grader enjoys a “gummy” every now and again under the tree at lunch. And to combat Peru’s amoral and reproachable behavior, the US military operations go unchecked when violating national sovereignty after national sovereignty, terrorizing an impoverished people who would otherwise have nothing to do with growing such unnatural amounts of the coca plant.

To think, all this chicanery for a farcical war on drugs and for the oppression of a people a continent away from the deep, inescapable pockets of demand.

If money does make the world go ’round, I have to believe that the crucifixion of a sacred plant in the Andes should not. With respect to what my neighbors did in the wee small hours of the morning with coca-chewing, it was far less nefarious than what little Johnny and Susie do for fun when their parents are absent. America is the society with a tragic problem, especially when the problem continues to eat away at the centuries old cultures of Andean countries like Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, terrorizing its peoples with boots on the ground and poison in the air. While some among us faithfully dust each nostril daily, we nevertheless quixotically seek to maintain our puritanical self-image on a national level. Perhaps for the sake of posterity alone, America would wage an endless and absolutely futile war on a plant that my neighbors wanted to chew at first light. Indeed, we have gone to war because America chooses not to admit that if we don’t want cocaine to exist, and if we don’t want our kids to do it, we should stop buying it and cease creating a demand for it.

Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border.

Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border. You can follow him on Twitter @mateo_pimentel.

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail