The South American cocaine trade has been flourishing for decades, supplying nearly all of the cocaine demand in the United States and Europe. Constant wars, prison battles, dangerous border crossings and tens of thousands of people cut down in the streets has resulted in a culture that almost reveres this trade, thanks to Hollywood's exciting portrayal of it. However, there's nothing exciting about the South American cocaine trade. It is fueling severe addiction problems all over the world and is destroying the people in the South American homelands. And because this status quo hasn't changed in practically 30 years, it seems a likely indicator that the War on Drugs just isn't working.

One of the most disturbing effects of the South American drug trade is the displacement of thousands of innocent civilians. Each year the battles between American-backed law enforcement and traffickers forces people from their homes to flee for safety. Entire swaths of land are burned when soldiers discover crops, and often nearby farmers are forced off their lands even if they were uninvolved. Rick Carroll from The Guardian summarized the problem in a recent article: "More than 750 [tons] of cocaine are shipped annually from the Andes in a multi-billion [dollar] industry which has forced peasants off land, triggered gang wars and perverted state institutions." These billions of dollars never make it into the hands of the people most affect by the cocaine trade.

Government corruption in South American countries involved in cocaine trafficking is widespread, with some officials taking an active and profitable role, while others can simply be paid to look the other way. Even honest police, soldiers and politicians often say nothing when trafficking is occurring in their region for fear of death or other violent reprisals. The fact that there is so much corruption involved is especially troubling considering that the United States pours hundreds of millions of dollars to help fund South American governments' efforts to eradicate the cocaine trade.

Recently indigenous peoples have begin to band together in an effort to prevent the destruction of their lands as a result of drug trafficking. These people have lived on their lands for millennia, leading uncomplicated agriculturally-based lives. Today their crops are routinely sprayed with chemicals meant to destroy the cocoa plant and starvation is rampant. Women are raped and men are killed by both marauding traffickers and soldiers. Lawlessness rules the land of these indigenous people who for centuries needed no laws to govern their citizens. For those who are neither law enforcement nor trafficker it can be difficult to determine which side is good, and which is bad.

Despite the best efforts of some of the world's most advanced militaries and police forces, the South American drug trade continues to flourish. Eradication efforts have minimal impact on the overall availability of cocaine. Traffickers and manufacturers quickly adapt to pressures placed on them and develop new ways to grow, manufacture, smuggle and distribute cocaine undetected. Routes constantly change as well as transport methods. And even as law enforcement quickly learns these methods, they can only hope to capture a small percentage of those involved in the trade.

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Author's Bio: 

Jarvey is a lifelong journalist and professional writer who specializes in the fields of drug abuse, addiction and alcoholism.