Monday, January 4, 2010

Markets in everything: unwitting drug smuggling decoys

RFE/RL reports from the Afghan-Tajik border:

Here, ordinary villagers can be "sold" across the border by drug smugglers without warning. And once they are sold, they may not return for decades.

The "selling" -- as the villagers call it -- works very simply. Smugglers hire the victim to carry a package of drugs, wittingly or unwittingly, across the border. Then, they tip off the Tajik border police to arrest him.

The man and the drugs in the package are the small sacrifices the smugglers make to keep authorities away from their larger-scale shipments.

Naturally, the police are in on it. Kind of a grander version of the big city beat cop arresting a bunch of small time dealers to meet quota and distract from the pay-offs he's getting from the neighborhood gang. In fact, the practice may have its roots in American-style drug war:

The charade also helps explain why despite millions of dollars of Western aid for the regional drug war – including more than $37 million from Washington to help Tajik law enforcement since 1992 – smuggling continues unabated across the border.

I suspect that the intended audience for these arrests is the Americans.

On a totally unrelated note, I liked this bit from the opening of the article:

Even the poor can eke out a living along the highway, filling in potholes with sand in return for small change thrown by passing truck drivers.

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