In 1968, President Richard Nixon initiated the War on Drugs when American soldiers were coming home from the Vietnam War addicted to heroin. More than a decade later, President Ronald Reagan launches the South Florida Drug Task force, headed by then Vice-President George Bush, in response to the city of Miami’s demand for help. In 1981, Miami was the financial and import central for cocaine and marijuana, and the residents were fed up.
Thanks to the task force, drug arrests went up by 27%, and drug seizures went up by 50%. With that, the need for prosecutors and judges also rose. Despite these increased arrests and seizures, marijuana and cocaine still poured into south Florida. At this stage, the root of the problem, the Colombian Cartels, was not attacked.
The DEA soon realized that they needed to crack down on the cartels. In 1982 the DEA went to Colombia to eradicate fields of marijuana and coca plants. These fields were located and burned. The hard part now, was finding the labs used to turn the coca leaves into cocaine. These labs were in very remote locations, to avoid surveillance. The DEA suspected that the cocaine labs were very large, but the Colombians kept eluding them.
Finally the DEA was able to track down the chemicals used in the processing of cocaine to one of the labs, and the DEA scored their first major bust. On March 10, 1984 twelve tons of cocaine were seized from a very remote lab. The DEA thinks they made an impact, but amazingly the cocaine availability on American streets remained the same. The DEA is shocked, and realizes just how big the drug problem in the United States was.
Because the Cartel leaders had money, they also began to acquire power. The dealers run for political office and win. Drug dollars poured into Colombia, building cities. The United States respond to the rise in the drug lords’ power by pressuring Colombia to extradite narcotics traffickers to the U.S. The Colombians, who want no Colombians in American Jails, oppose this. The drug dealers both respected and feared extradition, and recognized the threat. When the Colombian Justice Minister openly supported extradition, he was assassinated.
Still, the U.S. pressures the extradition issue. In 1985, anti-Government Guerillas, mainly composed of the drug dealers, attack the Colombian Supreme Court. The extradition requests were destroyed, and eleven Supreme Court Justices were killed. In total, over 200 people lost their lives. At this point, the drug lords are using terrorism to force the Colombian government to back off the extradition issue. During the 1980s, it appeared that Central America was awash in drugs, and drug money.
The violence continues today, through drug related gang violence, to botched drug raids. Drug dealers often carry weapons, some illegal, to defend themselves and their drugs. The drugs themselves do not cause violence; it is the fact that they are illegal that causes the violence. If two drug dealers have...