Traffick Jam

Tracking how drugs and war come together in U.S. policy toward South America, Traffick Jam focuses on the larger forces of capitalism and militarization that influence foreign policy, shape public political debate, and define the boundaries of the “legal” drug economy. This blog is premised on the idea that the United States has never waged a War on Drugs; on the contrary, control over the drug trade is a powerful weapon that the U.S. government flexibly deploys to wage war.

The DEA Gets Its Groove Back
Nov 10, 2011
A month ago the Drug Enforcement Administration seemingly managed to reassert its relevance by demonstrating the role it can play in the name of the endless U.S. War on Terror. After last week's bust of international arms dealer Viktor Bout, despite shoving legality and morality to the wayside, the DEA likely thinks it has found its groove.
Iran-Contra Remix for the Twenty-First Century
Oct 14, 2011
In the 1980s Ronald Reagan’s administration illegally defied Congress. What came to be called the “Iran-Contra Scandal,” a nexus of drugs, terror, Latin American proxy conflict, and covert operations involving the United States and Iran, seems this week to have been sampled and remixed for the twenty-first century.
Dancing With the Devil: Drug War Politics in Bolivia
Oct 6, 2011
Bolivian President Evo Morales has argued that the United States uses the drug war to advance its own political interests and discredit political opponents. But does the Bolivian Government do the same?
Menace to Society: Drug Threatdown 2011
Sep 22, 2011
The United States government’s recent “National Drug Threat Assessment 2011” targets international trafficking organizations even while it identifies domestic prescription pharmaceuticals as having the most destructive health consequences.
Biofuel (the New Banana) Republic
Sep 15, 2011
It is not surprising to hear that representatives of the U.S. State Department stationed in Tegucigalpa, Honduras believed since at least March 2004 that the wealthiest man in Honduras, and U.S. government ally, was involved in the cocaine trade.
Medical & Military Malpractice: The U.S. Public Health Service in Guatemala
Sep 8, 2011
In the 1940s U.S. Public Health medical researchers conducted appalling experiments on vulnerable populations in Guatemala. After last week's convening of President Obama's Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, the revelations are back in the news.
(Mis)educating the Youth
Aug 25, 2011
I wrote last week about the pharmaceutical industry’s aggressive promotion of Intellectual Property Rights as part of U.S. government negotiated "free trade" agreements. This blog is an update.
Will the Real International Criminals Please Stand Up?
Aug 18, 2011
As the U.S. government and pharmaceutical companies continue to aggressively protect and enhance the power and profits accruing to major players in the international drug industry, a genuine critical assessment of the sources of market distortion and criminality which endanger people’s health is more important than ever.
Drug War Delirium
Aug 4, 2011
Over the past two weeks, U.S. media airways have been dominated by the sad spectacle of elected representatives’ refusal to govern, their repudiation of even the pretense of trying to seek agreement on issues of grave importance to people living in the country and many more affected by their actions around the world. However, despite unprecedented levels of acrimony, open hostility, and free-flowing expressions of contempt, one issue seems to continue to galvanize widespread support: the drug war.
Trickle-Down Economics Confronts a New President in Peru
Jul 28, 2011
President Reagan’s justification for siphoning money out of the collective effort and into the pockets of the wealthy remains in vogue today. If the government pursues tax cuts and subsidies for the rich, so the pitch goes, everyone will benefit.  The wealth at the top will eventually “trickle-down.” It is unclear how the new government of Peru will respond.  
Challenging Prohibition & Pharmaceutical Power: From Coca to Marijuana
Jul 14, 2011
The struggle over the reach of international drug control continues. Having failed in an earlier attempt to amend the primary international drug control treaty to protect traditional uses of the coca leaf by indigenous communities in the Andes, Bolivia has declared it will withdraw from the treaty so that it can rejoin to it with reservations. This attempt to expand the circle of people who can legitimately make use of coca leaves—and the hostile reaction to it—provides insight into the economic and political interests that dictate the terms of drug control.
Beneath the Underdog
Jun 30, 2011
Dr. Gordon Rohlehr explains that any meaningful definition of community must take into account those whose struggles and humanity often fall below the collective radar, people who live ‘beneath the underdog’. The lesson he offers should be kept in mind when this Friday prisoners caged in California's supermax prison at Pelican Bay launch a hunger strike to protest the inhumane policies that prevail in the U.S. prison system.
Caribbean Dilemma: Between Barack and a Hard Place
Jun 22, 2011
Over the last decade the Caribbean has become one of the major trafficking routes for drugs leaving South America destined for the United States and other consumer markets. The twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago (T & T), a place I am currently visiting for the first time, presents a sobering case study on the failures of the punitive approach to drug control advocated and funded by the United States.  
Time Machine: 1960 Drug Industry Advertisements
Jun 16, 2011
The ads that appeared in Drug Trade News, a pharmaceutical industry publication that existed from the 1920s through the 1970s, are striking today for their tone, tenor, racism, or maybe what could be described as devastating privilege. They reflect a U.S. drug industry that confidently presumed its dominant role in the global capitalist market in the 1960s, even as the world was rocked by popular rebellions.
Legalize It
Jun 8, 2011
“Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now.” These words embody the call to action put forward this month by the Global Commission on Drug Policy in a report arguing that “the global war on drugs has failed.” The Commission advocates for decriminalizing the drug market. The “global drug prohibition regime” has been self-defeating and counter-productive: “Government...
A Crime or a Cure?
Jun 2, 2011
Most of the time when you hear judgment being leveled on the success, or failure, of the so-called “war on drugs” the focus tends to be related to the illicit drug market and the impact on people and communities affected by it. Defenders of drug control, whether it be national police officials or international regulators, tend to cite statistics on quantities of drugs seized, opium or coca crops...
The Real Cola Wars
May 26, 2011
Coca Brynco is the newest addition to an assortment of coca-infused drinks produced in the Andes—all of which are illegal to bring into or sell in the United States. Marketing of the drink began in January, perhaps to coincide with Bolivia’s proposal to the United Nations that coca leaves should not be targeted for international drug control (see my last post). The drink, and perhaps more...
Commercial Power and Drug Control: Chewing on Coca
May 19, 2011
A collision of world views has been on display this year in relation to the parameters of drug control as overseen by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). One issue of ongoing contention is a Bolivian proposal to have coca leaves removed from the list of substances—drugs—targeted for international control. At the present moment there is a stalemate. The proposed changes would...
Murder, She Wrote
May 11, 2011
In the midst of publicized celebrations of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, it is a funny thing to think about the politics of sustaining human life, while contemplating the tactics of human elimination. The so-called 'war on drugs' is in fact as much about monopolizing the power to sustain human life as it is a story of spectacular human elimination. Drugs, medicines give life, enhance life...