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Colombian drug cartels exporting cocaine underneath Valentine’s day flowers

The season before Valentine's Day is the busiest time of the year for Colombia's growers, when the 130,000 people employed at hundreds of flower farms work nonstop to ship some 500 million stems

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Cocaine
Powder drugs. Image source-Wikimedia Commons
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Cocaine is probably the last thing most people think about when buying roses. But every year, police and growers in Colombia must work around the clock to make sure that the romance of Valentine’s Day isn’t spoiled by the drug, the nation’s other major export along with flowers.

As much as 330,000 pounds (150 metric tons) of flowers leave Colombia on 30-plus jumbo cargo planes daily starting in late January, presenting an opportunity for the country’s ingenious drug cartels to penetrate the frenzied, overworked chain of suppliers and stash drugs amid the roses.

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“Without a doubt we’re a target,” said Augusto Solano, president of the Colombian flower exporters’ association.

Security protocols that the flower industry developed with police begin the moment that refrigerated trucks carrying rose buds depart dozens of flower farms dotting the waterlogged savannah surrounding Colombia’s capital. Once the flowers are inside the airport, 100 police offices equipped with 15 drug-sniffing dogs and electronic scanners inspect each shipment.

Last year, police said they found almost 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of cocaine hidden in flower boxes.

“We have to guarantee that our flower exports aren’t contaminated by criminal gangs,” Col. Julio Triana said as he and his drug-sniffing Labrador retriever walked through the refrigerated warehouse where flowers are kept before being loaded onto cargo planes.

Colombia’s flower industry took off in the early 1990s when the U.S. Congress passed a law eliminating tariffs on goods from Andean drug-producing nations in a bid to encourage legal exports. That Colombia’s criminals now train their eyes on flower shipments as a way to smuggle drugs into the U.S. is a sign of just how much the industry has blossomed. It is now is the world’s second-largest cut flower exporter, after the Netherlands, and the top supplier to the U.S.

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The season before Valentine’s Day is the busiest time of the year for Colombia’s growers, when the 130,000 people employed at hundreds of flower farms work nonstop to ship some 500 million stems, mostly to the United States but other parts of the world as well.

“Right now there’s not a single rose available,” said Solano.

But with competitors from Kenya and Ecuador making inroads, the industry isn’t taking its leadership for granted and works hard to keep out smuggled drugs.

“It requires a big effort because if another country finds drugs they can ban flower imports from Colombia and that would be disastrous,” Solano said. (VOA)

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EDM party-goers at high opioid dependence risk

Opioid use has grown to epidemic proportions in the US and has been the main contributor to a resurgence of heroin use as well as the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C

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EDM party-goers are more likely to use drugs. IANS
  • EDM party goers are known to use many drugs
  • They also misuse opioids like heroin
  • The dance party goers are always at a higher risk of using drugs

Not just common party drugs like ecstasy, more and more electronic dance music (EDM) party attendees are misusing opioids like heroin, researchers claim.

Opioid use has grown to epidemic proportions in the US and has been the main contributor to a resurgence of heroin use as well as the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, the team from New York University said.

Drugs, Rehabilitation centre
Party goers are misusing opioids like heroin. Pixabay

“We’ve always known that electronic dance music party attendees are at high risk for use of club drugs such as ecstasy or Molly, but we wanted to know the extent of opioid use in this population,” said Joseph Palamar, Associate Professor at New York University.

“This population of experienced drug users needs to be reached to prevent initiation and continued use, which can lead to riskier and more frequent use, dependence, and deleterious outcomes such as overdose – particularly if opioids are combined with other drugs,” Palamar added.

Also Read: Indonesia’s War on Drugs Follows Philippines’ Infamous Crusade to Curb Drug Use

To reach this conclusion, the researchers surveyed 954 individuals (ages 18 to 40) about to enter EDM parties at nightclubs and dance festivals in New York City. Attendees were asked about the use of 18 different opioids — including OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, codeine, fentanyl and heroin.

Cocaine
these drugs are causing health issues like HIV and hepatitis C. Wikimedia Commons

The researchers found that almost a quarter (23.9 per cent) of EDM party attendees have used opioids non-medically in their lifetime and one out of 10 (9.8 per cent) did so in the past year. IANS