12. THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY & ITS COCAINE CONNECTION
War has always been good for business, and the war on drugs
is no exception. During the years of blustering "just say no" rhetoric
and swelling drug enforcement budgets, American industry openly and legally collaborated
with South America's cocaine cartels, supplying the chemicals needed to turn coca
leaves into cocaine.
The process requires a number of so-called precursor
chemicals that are also used for hundreds of legitimate products (which is the
implausible defense used by the chemical industry).
During the 1980s, American firms were the leading suppliers of these
chemicals to South America. From 1982 to 1988, U.S. exports of the precursor
chemicals to the Andean region doubled, and no one in government or
business seemed even remotely curious why.
There ought to be a law, and there is, sort of: the Chemical Diversion
and Trafficking Act, which was signed by Ronald Reagan in November 1988.
The act went into effect in February 1990 after two years of hearings
and significant input from the chemical industry.
In fact, some critics of the legislation, like Senator Harry Reid
of Nevada, would even say the industry's lobbyists wrote it. "We looked at
the law and saw the loopholes and contacted drug czar William Bennett's office,"
Reid says. "And he simply wasn't concerned. He sent a form letter in response
to my inquiry."
In its final form, the antidiversion law allows the
DEA to screen only the new customers of chemical companies and permits the agency
just fifteen days to do so. "And we only get one shot," says Gene Haislip,
the DEA's director of diversion control. Once cleared, a customer can't be investigated
Since the controls have been implemented, the DEA has denied permission
to seventy percent of new customers for these chemicals. In the first six months
of 1990, U.S. chemical exports to South America dropped fifty percent.
up the slack, however, is Germany, which has increased its exports to the region
by over 400 percent in recent months.
In response to the German connection,
legislation has been introduced which would empower the president to ban foreign
companies that sell chemicals to the drug cartels from doing business in the U.S.
While President Bush has yet to call for such a measure, an equally large question
looms: While the media devotes so much coverage to the "war on drugs,"
where were they during this battle?
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: DENISE MUSSETTER
SOURCE: ROLLING STONE, 745 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10151
TITLE: "By Keeping the Chemicals Flowing, American Industry Kept
the Cocaine Cartels In Business"
AUTHOR: LINDA FELDMAN
COMMENTS: Author Linda Feldman feels that the "chemical
industry/cocaine connection" has been and continues to be a "censored"
story. "The subject of American chemical companies legally selling
the cocaine processing solvents to Colombia, to my knowledge,"
said Feldman, "was covered only in the Los Angeles Times in December
1989, by writer Doug Jehl. I spoke to Mr. Jehl as part of my research
to confirm his sources because he maintained that close to 90% of the
solvents were diverted to the production of cocaine. As far as I know,
no other article was published or story aired which discussed the American
companies' participation. The general public would benefit (from greater
media exposure of the story) by learning that the same mentality which
drives businesses to sell poison gas and live bacteria to Iraq, nuclear
weapons to unstable governments and irregular baby formula to Third
World countries, is also behind the cocaine business. There is no doubt
in my mind that cocaine processing would be a small time operation without
American chemical companies. The irony that no law was broken only supports
the cynical attitude that someone else might step in and do the dirty
act anyway. My original article also described the procedure by which
coca is made into cocaine. It is pretty grisly. I'm not sure if we could
save heavy users from themselves but I sure would bet that anyone considering
trying this poison would think twice if they knew exactly how this stuff
is manufactured. On the Federal level, Senators Harry Reid and John
Kerry would welcome further media exposure of this story. Both of them
voiced their frustration to me in not being able to get support for
tougher legislation unhampered by chemical company influence."
Feldman concludes with a warning of what might happen to investigative
journalists who rock the boat. "Whatever you decide, I am grateful
to you (Project Censored) for at least recognizing the importance of
the story. The fact it was censored twice makes it more compelling for
other writers to pick up their pens. (I might add that I was notified
by GTE that the FBI subpoenaed my phone records for the first six months
of 1990 and although I can't prove it and the agent I spoke with denied
the relationship, I feel there is a connection between my investigation
into cocaine chemicals and the investigation by the FBI.)"