Volume 8, Number 23 January 12, 2006
The "Drug War", Land Grab and You
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad
In 1996 a series of articles ("Dark Alliance") written by Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury News reported that in the 1980s, "a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to... street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to an arm of the contra guerrillas of Nicaragua run by the Central Intelligence Agency" and the "cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America... " Gary Webb died at the age of 49 from a reported "self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head" in December of 2004.
Now cut to December 16, 1996, the day Por Esto! published the first in a long series of articles denouncing banker Roberto Hernandez as a "narco-trafficker." After Menendez got a complaint from a fishing collective whose members felt they were victims of a land grab by Hernandez, Por Esto! reporters found packages of cocaine washed up on the banker's beaches. Mario Menendez is the editor and publisher of Por Esto!, a newspaper chain that might be called the Village Voice of the Yucatan Peninsula. Mexico is the drop off point for cocaine coming from Columbia destined for the US.
According to a StopTheDrugWar.org September 5, 2003 article titled, "In Colombia, Social Distortion as Narcos Grab Land", drug traffickers now control almost half of all of Colombia's most productive agricultural lands, according to a study released by the Colombian government and reported in the newsweekly Semana. Traffickers hold some 10 million acres, or 48% of prime agricultural land, with a value of $2.4 billion dollars, according to the government analysis. Those numbers could be low, the report said, because of the use of cut-outs to disguise the true owners of properties.
The Houston Chronicle published an article by John Otis on June 22, 2005 entitled, "DRUG WAR IN COLOMBIA: IS THERE ANY PROGRESS?" The article says that the White House claims that cocaine levels are down, but some analysts disagree. Estimates on the 2004 South America cocaine trade vary from the White House drug office estimates of 640 metric tons to the United Nations estimate of 670 metric tons to the US task force estimates of 1,390 metric tons. Although the White House estimates would indicate a decrease in drug trafficking, the other estimates would indicate that the supply of cocaine has greatly increased. Why would the White House want to low-ball the estimates of drug trafficking? Could it be that somebody within the US government wants drug trafficking to continue to flood the Black neighborhoods with cocaine, while at the same time using US taxpayer money to destroy the agricultural base of South American indigenous peoples, opening these lands up to US land speculators and agribusiness firms?
Now the spread of cocaine in Black neighborhoods, like in the case of New Orleans, has another "land grab" effect called gentrification. In the Lower Ninth Ward flooded after Katrina, Black households owned 60% of their homes. Mayor Ray Nagin complained about the increase in drugs being brought into New Orleans. When drugs infest a neighborhood, the real-estate values drop which allows land speculators to buy up large tracts of land. Add to this a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina where massive amounts of money are needed to rebuild, but at the same time, these neighborhoods are now looked at as being unworthy of help because of their past history of poverty, drugs and violence. According to a January 11, 2006 article in the Times-Picayune "Residents of New Orleans areas hardest-hit by Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters would have four months to prove they can bring theirneighborhoods back to life or face the prospect of having to sell out to a new and powerful redevelopment authority." Now since the Federal government is not willing to help and the insurance companies are not willing to pay, it will be impossible for many of the "indigenous" peoples of New Orleans to prove that they have "viable" plans to rebuild not only their homes but their "neighborhoods". This of course opens the doors wider for the land speculators, especially since the Supreme Court has just a few months ago conveniently expanded the governmentís rights of eminent domain. Now compare this same scenario in a local real-estate land grab scheme to land grab on a continental basis.
According to a CommonDreams.org article reprinted from the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 26, 2001 called "U.S. War on Drugs in Columbia is Ravaging Farmers and Land", the writer Constance Garcia-Barrio reports that "The U.S. has a hidden agenda in the war on drugs," says Linda Panetta, director of the School of the Americas Watch/Northeast. She further stated that "It is getting and keeping control of Colombia's resources: gold, silver, copper. Colombia may have the largest oil reserve in the Americas. The U.S. wants to control it."
Now if we shift to the US governmentís dismay at indigenous presidents being elected in Venezuela and Bolivia, we might get a clearer picture of plans that will soon affect everybody in these United States. President Bush is trying to open up all of South America to "free trade". What this means is that North American manufacturers and farmers could then move their operations to South America and ship their products back to the US without paying duty taxes. Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is trying to rally the other South American presidents to not sign on with the Bush scheme.
In the meantime, large US farmers and agribusiness firms have already moved to countries like Columbia, Brazil and Venezuela in preparations for the flooding of US markets with cheaper agricultural products than the US farmer can produce. According to a National Public Radio broadcast a Nebraska farmer who started off with a 250 acre farm has moved to Brazil where he now farms 8,000 acres. In South America the land, labor and fuel is cheaper giving the farmers there an advantage, if they can ship their products duty free into the US.
Letís look at a series of events and policies to see just how this is working. First the US imposes trade restrictions and duty taxes to protect the American white farmers against competition. America then buys the higher priced commodities from the white farmers (PL480) and dumps them at below market prices on the cities of South America which forces her local farmers to grow more cocoa plants for the drug market instead of food crops. The US turns around and buys cocaine from these drug lords, allowing them to buy more of the peasantsí land.
The US then turns around and starts a "drug war" against cocaine producers with taxpayer money. Through this process they seize the drug lordsí lands and sell them at bargain prices to US agribusiness interests. Once the US companies are up and running, the US drops her trade restrictions and removes the duty taxes so that her companies can now ship back agricultural products and manufactured products to compete with the small farmers and manufacturers who could not get out in time.
Of course these agricultural products are being produced without the vast number of regulations on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides and fertilizers which the US farmers are subject to. How will this effect the health of the US citizens? Add to this the reduction in health care benefits, we then have a formula for the sinking of America. Hello, America, welcome to the "Third World".
Books and lectures by Dr. Ridgely A. Mu'min