In the week when Belize celebrated the near halving of the billion-dollar-plus Superbond, through the arrangement made with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a plane from a country south of us, carrying illegal cocaine destined for our wealthiest neighbor north of us, was facilitated by Belizeans to land on the Southern Highway. Some of the suspects in the exercise are people our government hired to prevent such stopovers in our country. Just a few days before that plane landed, another set down on a sugar road up north, and individuals, believed to be Belizeans, provided illumination and fuel to enable the operation.
From every strata of our society there are individuals who feel justified in aiding and abetting these illegal landings, in exchange for cash, or cocaine bricks which they can convert to currency. They must have their arguments, but none can trump the terrible toll on our nation. Government leaders, cops, and wealthy men in the society who facilitate the trafficking of cocaine, and lawyers who eagerly go to court to defend suspects, cannot have a clear conscience, because the cost of this trafficking is too high.
It wasn’t new news, cocaine being trafficked through our country, but it is rare when we make a bust, and rarer still that officers who are paid to fight cocaine smuggling, are found on the scene in a most compromising way. The thunder out of that significant deal with TNC was not completely stolen, but much of it was lost in the disgrace brought on by the betrayal of the public trust, by those we employ to serve us.
It’s much bad news, this decades’ long war against cocaine transshipment through our country. As in all wars there are winners and losers. In the winners category, some have won big, very big. The people in Belize who know things know who they are, but they will never call names.
The only legal winners in this war, the lawyers, many of them have made a mint. That shouldn’t be a surprise. The lawyers always win. Legal minds, in the service of people who are convinced prohibition is the best way to contain the use of drugs and alcohol, drafted the laws. They have capitalized. It’s legal business to defend drug suspects, so it would just be feeding our inquisitive nature to list the names of all our prominent lawyers who have done very well for themselves by providing services for persons suspected of being involved in the illegal trade.
The losers are innumerable. The drug war hasn’t negatively impacted the bankers, but it has affected our banking system. The gobs of dollars cocaine traffickers make have to be laundered so that it can enter the money system. Stringent laws have been enacted by the USA, the leader of the world’s money system, and these laws make it more difficult for people in countries like ours to do business.
Law-abiding individuals have seen their legitimate businesses stymied. Small entrepreneurs especially are constricted by the draconian laws which have made simple transactions turn into labyrinthine exercises. It is especially frustrating because the increasingly digital world has made doing business with the outside world so much easier—until entrepreneurs encounter the restrictions on the banking system that were installed to prevent the laundering of drug proceeds.
The drug wars have made our country a very dangerous place. In times past it was the unwritten law of the sea that you could approach a stranger for assistance, but those days are gone. Many mangrove islands have become hideaways for cocaine and the trade’s runners.
There is fear in our streets because of this drug war. In the battle to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the Health Department has limited the opening hours of business establishments, but long before that, those businesses that couldn’t afford to hire security guards were shuttered early, because of the terror that has taken over our streets. Violence is now commonplace in urban and coastal areas. In the battle to protect turf, many of our young men have lost all respect and love for human life. Our once peaceful haven is now one of the most murderous places in the world.
The disaster is not confined to Belize. Every country south of the Rio Grande, to as far down as the north territories of South America, is caught in the drug war, and for a number of them the situation is far worse than it is in Belize. In a number of these countries drug cartels have used the vast wealth they acquired from the drug trade to hire out-of-work soldiers and police officers, whom they equip with explosive military hardware and send to take over entire districts.
Cocaine is a special drug, which is especially dangerous because it is extremely addictive. It is derived from the processing of the coca leaf, which is native to South America and has been used for eons by farmers in countries such as Bolivia as medicine for various ailments. A hundred years ago, the Americans were using cocaine to treat asthma and headaches, and it “was” an ingredient of Coca Cola when that drink captured the taste buds of people across the globe. Today, it’s legally used by doctors in the US as a topical anesthetic.
Cocaine is a stimulant, and in the USA the need is great for it. There are Belizeans who use the drug, but our “need” nowhere compares to theirs. The American dream is to be filthy rich, and those who are especially driven, such as the bankers who run the financial system of the world, some of them are at their desks crunching numbers up to 20 hours a day so they can holiday at US$5,000-a-night resorts and send their children to Ivy League schools. Such working hours aren’t normal for human beings.
There are strong arguments which show that if cocaine were legal, its impact would be far less deleterious than it is with its present status, but for us to immerse ourselves in such discussions might be no more profitable than baying at the moon. The fact on the ground is that the US, the most powerful country in the world, has outlawed cocaine for their reason, or reasons, and all the evidence shows that facilitating the trade is a terrible mistake for Belize. The best efforts of authorities in our country must be toward getting these drug planes to skip us.