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Thank the War on Drugs for your Valentine’s Day roses

This article was published in partnership with

When your love hands you a gorgeous bouquet of large, red, long-stemmed roses this Valentine’s Day, as any botanist will tell you, you’re getting a bunch of sex organs. Although the roses are more beautiful, fragrant and socially acceptable than other methods that might get the same point across (just ask former Congressman Anthony Weiner), there’s a lot more to those roses than meets the eye.

Unfortunately, the romancing of women in the United States often means the exploitation of women in countries like Colombia and Ecuador.

The preference the U.S. gives Colombian and Ecuadorian flower exports has a lot to do with another export from those nations: cocaine. By 1990, South American imports already accounted for more than 40 percent of roses sold in the United States. Then, in 1991, Congress passed the Andean Trade Preference Act. The idea was simple: maybe if we help cocaine-producing nations sell us other things, like roses, they’ll be less interested in selling us cocaine.

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