Cocaine is the 2nd most popular illegal drug used in the USA, with four million users alone. Its raw material is the coca plant which turns into a paste that forms the base of the drug's familiar white powder form.
The coca plant is grown over 4,000 miles away in South American countries like Peru and Colombia. Peru's Vrae valley, in particular, is now considered the coca capital of the world, producing over 47,000 tons of cocaine a year, overtaking Colombia.
About 92% of Vrae's population live below the poverty line, and over 18,000 of its farmers plant coca because it is 20 times more profitable than regular crops. Growing coca is illegal, and they harvest leaves and make coca paste as quickly as possible without being caught by government militarized anti-narcotic police forces. Raw cocoa leaves fetch $3 per kilo, but the price jumps to $900 per kilo in its paste form. Of course, farmers will only earn money if not caught.
Once the paste is ready, it must be transported over 120 miles by couriers, some as young as 12, to producers who will make cocaine powder. The transport is done on foot to avoid thieves and police checkpoints. It is a harrowing two-day journey through the jungle, and by the time it's done, the cocaine is now worth $1300 per kilo.
The producer's responsibility is to convert the paste into powder. At the same time, traffickers transport it out of the country on small aeroplanes that take off from small airfields in Peru's Pitches Palcazu region. When it is en route to Central America, the cocaine is now worth $10,000 per kilo.
A vast network of local and international police relentlessly pursue the coke. Police torch farms, crops and paste labs and even blow up airport runways to stem the flow of over 120 tons of cocaine leaving the country daily. Up in the air, US Customs and Border Protection services take over, pursuing traffickers with a high-tech P3 surveillance plane that can track drug planes over vast areas.
However, flight weather conditions and international airspace rules sometimes get in the way. Many drug planes still escape to Guatemala, as the cocaine makes its way to Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California. The Siniloan drug cartel has even dug out over 160+ extremely unstable and dangerous tunnels so the drugs can cross the borders undetected. At this point, the cocaine is now worth $28,000 per kilo.
Cartel kingpins then take over, selling it to retailers for $80,000 per kilo, distributing it to end-users in clubs, parties and more at $40 per 1/2 gram bag. Cocaine's end users are in constant danger of getting addicted to the drug even if it causes heart attacks, kidney failure, brain damage, and death. However, this doesn't seem to matter to them.
The journey of cocaine contains all the elements that would make a real Hollywood blockbuster hit. It brings violence, addiction, death, and destruction that many choose to disregard and sniff away in exchange for the high (both physically and financially) they get.
Directed by: Stefania Buonajuti