When I returned to Belize from school in America in 1968, the drug I was worried about, where possible penetration of Belize was concerned, was heroin, not cocaine. I guess there were people here who knew about cocaine, but even if that was so, remember that the powder cocaine was very expensive. So it was when the crack “variant” of cocaine was introduced into our streets that a kind of hell broke loose. That’s because crack cocaine was affordable for roots people.
So when did crack arrive? We know that one of the original United Democratic Party (UDP) government’s biggest mistakes was allowing the American government to spray Belizean marijuana fields with paraquat. Paraquat causes Parkinson’s disease. This is a big legal issue in the United States today. The paraquat spraying in Belize took place in the middle 1980s, and it was around the same time that crack became a killer here. One reason for this was that long- time weed smokers couldn’t get good reefer to smoke in Belize, so they mixed crack with their weed to “spike it up.” Some of them became crack addicts. Very bad news.
An American reporter by the name of Gary Webb in the early 1990s exposed the fact that the American government led by Ronald Reagan had used crack cocaine to raise money to finance the “contras” in their fight against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas had overthrown the right wing, pro-U.S. Somoza government in 1979. The United States Congress, however, had refused to finance the contras, so the Central Intelligence Agency raised the money through illegal means, crack cocaine sales in South Central Los Angeles and selling military parts and equipment to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini government. It’s a long story.
The main point I want to make in this column is that we Belizeans are in a terrible situation today, because our Police Department is divided and infiltrated. The morale within Belize’s police personnel must be at its lowest ever, because something frightening appears to have taken place which has police fighting against police in Belize.
The above is a dangerous subject to pursue. When an American named David Runkel, who taught journalism at St. John’s College Sixth Form in the late 1980s, first started to talk about investigative journalism, it sounded “sexy,” as Almendarez would say. But we who were in the profession in The Jewel, knew that such an initiative — investigative journalism, would be very dangerous in Belize. And, that was more than three decades ago.
I travelled to the United States by road in 2012, and the atmosphere in certain areas between Tampico and the Reynosa border was really ominous. The problem involves the demand for cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana amongst the citizens of the very, very wealthy United States of America. America’s political leaders declared these drugs illegal almost a century ago, which automatically raised their price, especially that of cocaine. Roots people in Mexico risk their freedom and their lives to get these drugs across the border into the lucrative American market.
The same American government which declared the drugs illegal has to turn around and finance counter-narcotics operations which begin in the upper part of South America, where most of America’s cocaine supplies originate. All the money circulating in the narcotics business, both the supply and interdiction areas, causes all kinds of problems for law enforcement personnel in countries like Belize, which cannot pay their police personnel big salaries to risk their lives, which is what they have to do when they fight against drug operations.
I will end this column with the observation that cocaine is consumed in enormous quantities by Americans who are legal operatives in business, entertainment, and other industries. The Indigenous peoples in the mountains of upper South America have chewed the coca leaf for centuries to help them fight the cold and to give them extra work energy. What the Americans who can afford it, use cocaine for, is to enable them to work eighteen and twenty-hour days in places like Wall Street. And, of course, cocaine is the most popular party drug in America.
Drugs are weakening the moral fiber of America. In China, which has become America’s leading challenger for world hegemony, they had terrible experiences with opium in the middle of the nineteenth century. So China will execute you if they catch you dealing drugs. Straight up. China, then, does not have a drug problem. The United States of America does.