The Drug Trade Brutalizes the Third World - But For Rich Western Travelers It's a Tourist Attraction
But MedellÃn’s attraction as a destination for cutting-edge travelers also reflects an ever-increasing interest in visiting, albeit at a safe distance, the site from which one of the biggest criminal complexes in the world originates. The illegal drug trade today generates an estimated 300 billion USD globally—far more than the gross domestic product of most countries—and the world’s two main hard drugs, heroin and cocaine, are linked to two nations: Afghanistan, where 90 per cent of the world’s heroin is produced; and this country, Colombia, where 60 per cent of the cocaine consumed globally comes from.
If heroin breeds misery, cocaine has successfully held on to its image as the narcotic for those wishing to disassociate themselves from junkies. It is the undisputed drug of choice for the wealthy in the world’s richest nations, and it has been growing in popularity, with no sign of slowing, since German chemists first isolated the alkaloid in 1860. Cocaine continues to find its way into new parts of the world—Eastern Europe and certain parts of Asia are booming markets—and, perhaps to an even greater extent, into social milieus previously untouched by the white powder. While the trend for “clean living” is growing within the elite classes of the United States and Europe, environments often socially safeguarded from drug abuse, cocaine use among middle-and working-class Americans and Europeans is on the rise.
HÃ¥kan pushes his girlfriend away and vanishes into a swarm of dancers. He has stains from a red lollipop around his mouth, visible as he approaches another blond young man, who has a plastic bottle in his back pocket.
“Nice parties here, eh? Acid? Ecstasy? Cocaine?” Their eyes meet and they exchange the goods. Suddenly an army of smiling former fashion models bursts onto the scene, dispersing over the dance floor, moving like green projectiles into the crowd. They’re promoting a new brand of cigarettes and are all wearing identical form fitting tops that coordinate with the colors on the cigarette packets. They scurry about, handing out free smokes to anyone who wants one. And everyone does. HÃ¥kan and his new friend are in paradise; they throw their arms in the air, flapping their hands around in a way that’s reminiscent of the 1990s rave scene.
Published with permission from Soft Skull Press.