Cocaine, star of globalization and flagship drug of the 21st century

On the marina of Puerto Banus, the monumental sculpture of a rhinoceros, made by Salvador Dali, seems to watch the luxury sedans pass and the yachts of the moguls dock. At the beginning of the 2000s, the seaside town of Marbella, in the south of Spain, welcomed traffickers from all walks of life, and the wealthiest gladly displayed their success. On this Costa del Sol where cocaine arrives by the hundreds of kilos, they make up a sort of “United Nations of crime”.

There are Italians, Irish, Albanians, Colombians, to which are added the new hash millionaires, Moroccans or Spaniards. Each has its own bars, neighborhoods and specialities. We come here for business, money laundering, but also to party, enjoy the sun and the girls. Settling accounts, too: nearly twenty French people involved in various trafficking were murdered between 1996 and 2002.

It is no coincidence that this tourist area is so successful. Cocaine has a lot to do with it. At the end of the 1990s, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated world production at nearly 1,000 tons each year. The saturation of the American market and the fight against trafficking have pushed Colombian producers to seek other outlets, particularly in Europe. The Mexican cartel of Sinaloa, then at the height of its power, also began to look towards the Old Continent. The presence in Spain of a large South American diaspora has provided criminal organizations with relays and opened up prospects, in particular on the Costa del Sol, a region already known as a logistical center for cannabis trafficking from the Moroccan Rif.

The time seems very distant when Sigmund Freud celebrated the miraculous cocaine, this XIXe century when chemists explored its supposed medical virtues. Even the time of happy couplethis return to grace of the 1970s and 1980s when the festive sniff was the trademark of a certain elite, intellectual or financial, seems outdated: coke is now a mass product, a globalized market, its shipments are calculated in tons, its customer base in millions of junkies.

Infallible logistics

To satisfy these consumers and ensure their margins, traffickers rely on infallible logistics. So here comes the era of the container, this totem object of globalization. The “box”, as the dockers call it, with identical dimensions in all the ports of the planet, is a globetrotter designed to facilitate loading and unloading operations. A dream in the eyes of traffickers.

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