Why traffickers will always be one jump ahead

COCAINE traffickers call it 'The Jump'. This is the ability to get the cocaine across the Mexican border or the Caribbean into the United States. It was here that Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel made their money in the 1980s as American consumption of cocaine soared.

The drug business in Colombia and the US was never integrated. Escobar's skill was in arranging transport of the cheap and easily available raw cocaine from the fields and laboratories and making 'The Jump' successfully. Some of the drugs brought into the US were owned by him but more came from freelance producers. If a shipment was intercepted then Escobar would usually refund the price of the drugs lost to the owners.

The success he and other Colombian drug traffickers have enjoyed in circumventing US government efforts at interdiction can be demonstrated by tracking the wholesale price of pure cocaine in the US. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the price fell sharply in the early 1980s. It then levelled off at dollars 11,000 ( pounds 7,500) for a kilogram (2.2lb) of pure cocaine where - despite all efforts to throttle supplies - it has stayed for the last five years.

The reason Escobar and the Colombian drug traffickers, who supply 80 per cent of cocaine consumed in the US, made so much money and are so difficult to stop is explained by State Department figures. These say that, given that a ton of the drug is worth dollars 100m in the US, the American market alone puts dollars 15bn to dollars 17.5bn into criminal hands.

With profits like this it is easy to see why Escobar's wealth was once estimated at dollars 3bn by Forbes magazine. A State Department report says: 'Cocaine and heroin are currently the most abundant, lucrative commodities in the world.' The whole of the US consumes only 150 to 175 tons of cocaine in a year and it appears to be impossible to stop it entering the country.

The extent to which attempted interdiction has failed was underlined yesterday with the almost universal acceptance that the death of Escobar would have no effect on the flow of drugs from Colombia to the US. The Cali cartel - less publicly violent in their methods than the men from Medellin - has already taken over some 80 per cent of cocaine trafficking to the US.

Escobar was, however, the best- known criminal in America since Al Capone. His ability to elude the Colombian police and DEA for so long was a continual humiliation of law enforcement. For 20 years the 23 federal agencies involved in the war on drugs boosted their budget through exploiting fears of cocaine but have notably failed to reduce its availability.

The death of Escobar could be seen as a success for the DEA's so-called Kingpin strategy of going after the leaders of the drug cartels. David Bonner, the former head of the DEA, described this as an effort 'to reduce the cartels' capacity to produce and distribute cocaine by incarcerating their leaders, seizing their assets and working capital, confiscating their financial records and otherwise disrupting their operation'.

The lesson of the last decade is that US attempts to stop drugs at source are doomed. The profits are too great. Draconian sentences at home probably have reduced the use of cocaine but at a high price. Just as with prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, the government has frightened off casual consumers but has ensured that the hard core of the drugs business is in the hands of professional criminals.

Escobar fell because, like Capone, he publicly challenged the state. The Cali cartel refused to join him in 'narco-terrorism', whereby he assassinated politicians and newspaper editors who called for his extradition to the US. Others will now organise 'The Jump' just as he once did, but with less publicity.

Obituary, page 15

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Researchers have said it could take only two questions to identify a problem with alcohol
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: ***KS1 & KS2 Teachers ...

LSA (afterschool club) vacancy in Newport

£40 per day + Travel Scheme : Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: Our client ...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style