I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine
Author note: Jonathan Hunt (Translator)
Publish Year note: First published in 2009
A page-turning account of the international cocaine trade, presented as five lessons in how to move tons of the drug across borders
Forget about cocaine concealed in false-bottomed suitcases or swallowed in ovules resistant to gastric juices. When entire national economies are kept afloat by the money from cocaine smuggling, the quantities these tactics represent are meaningless. When a commodity like cocaine becomes a mainstay of the international economy, grams and kilos are irrelevant. Because what is needed to sustain the market is cocaine by the ton.
Tons of cocaine means ships, cargo planes, and containers: large, cumbersome, extremely tangible, and visible amounts of white powder. So how is all that merchandise moved through harbors and airports? How are customs offices deceived, fiscal checks eluded, police networks infiltrated, and documents prepared to disguise mountains of cocaine?
It’s done with coca made into cubes, dissolved in liquid, hidden in marble blocks or inside electric cables. With friends in the right places. With cocaine smuggled in cranes. With sniffer dogs supplied to the police, free of charge. With money in cash, always. And yes, with willing mules swallowing drugs. But they will be arrested, and that’s part of the plan.
Drawing from years of research and conversations with criminal sources and convicted drug smugglers, with new information on the techniques, methods, and strategies used, Luca Rastello brings us a devastating portrait of the international cocaine trade. Told from the perspective of the formidable entrepreneurs whose tactics evolve and adapt to keep pace with shifts in the global economy, I Am the Market is a masterful exposé of a world we thought we understood—until now.
thousand dollars: two thousand in advance and I’ll deliver two thousand to your family.” It’s a kind of insurance. If the mule doesn’t come back, he knows that at least his wife and children (there are always lots of children) have something to live on. Except that what really happens with the Italian narco is that first he cheats you on the two thousand greenbacks in advance. He buys you your ticket for the intercontinental flight and leaves you nothing but the change, if there is any. Peanuts.
entrepreneur. There were some things he liked to do himself. Anyway, the priest was hired and crossed the border with the teams bound for the fazendas on the other side. “Now let’s see what happens on the Venezuelan side …” The problem for our intrepid Jesuit was that on Saturdays, Bonazzi was in the habit of loading all his victims onto a truck and taking them off to a brothel. He was thoughtful that way. And they, horny as monkeys, had got into the unfortunate habit of washing before they
amount of imports. At the time of the great solutions, when the cartels were faced with the problem of finding a more reliable method than the bribery-based system, it was Amsterdam that set the prices all over the world. We too exported mostly to Holland. The Dutch market was also a price controller: for example, in Scandinavia the powder was much more profitable, but the continental averages for trading were decided in the Netherlands. Nowadays, Spain controls the game, mostly because that’s
I ask questions if this guy pays ready money and gives it to me at once? Everyone is crazy about cash. Mark my words, everyone. I nearly forgot: you make a great show of haggling over the price of the blocks. The negotiation must be done the South American way. A lot of shouting, swearing, stuff to drink, pauses and raised voices, lunches, dinners, and whores. But in the end you buy. You pay well and on the nail. Is that clear? Because when they see the money, they’re not just happy, they’re
attentive to the changes in demand, of course: some studied trends in consumption, as people do in all other businesses, and only an imbecile could still think of selling stimulants to the same poor bastards dressed in jacket and tie who had been our customers the year before. More relaxed models were needed now in the less “triumphant” United States. It was time to diversify supply, to suggest alternatives—sedative ones, if possible. And look what comes up on the screen. Instead of the