Creativity rules drug trafficking
BOGOTA, Colombia — The six puppies looked fine at first. But when Colombian police gave them a closer look, they found fresh scars on their bellies that told a different story.
The tiny Labradors and Rottweillers had been surgically converted into drug couriers: cut open, with several plastic packets of heroin stitched into their abdomens.
Even the hardened Colombian police, who discovered the puppies at an abandoned house in a rural area outside Medellin, had never seen anything like it. Traffickers were apparently going to ship the dogs to the United States saying they were pets. It is almost certain they would have been discarded as soon as their cargo was removed.
“The better we get at catching them, the more creative they get,” said Mark Styron, supervisor of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Heroin Group in Bogota. “That’s always the problem.”
Much of the cocaine and heroin that ends up for sale on street corners in the United States begins in the rich soil of this conflict-ridden South American country. Staying ahead of the smugglers is expensive. Since 2000, the United States has sent $4.5 billion to Colombia to help battle drug trafficking.
That six-year program is set to expire at the end of this year.
Although the Bush administration and Congress have signaled a willingness to continue funding at current levels for at least another year, some are questioning whether the money has been effective in stemming the tide of drugs to the United States.
Colombians point with pride to the hundreds of thousands of acres of coca and poppy fields they have destroyed and the tons of drugs seized at their airports and borders. Kidnappings and murders are down.
But a report from the United Nations showed that while coca cultivation in Colombia is down, it has risen in nearby Peru and Bolivia.
The Justice Department’s National Drug Threat Assessment for 2005 found that heroin and cocaine were readily available throughout the United States.