8.15.2016

Cocaine Banking - review of Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano

The Story of Cocaine in our World

Everyone Does Cocaine

The book first assaults our misperceptions. To dismantle general denial about the levels of popular drug use, the author takes us through a catalog of who in our lives is using cocaine. And I have to admit, when the idea that everyone uses cocaine was introduced, I laughed. I mean, it sounds absurd. No one I know uses cocaine, I thought. Then he takes you through the list of people you casually know, and the people they know, and the people who work at the businesses where those people get their dry cleaning done. And then you realize: I have no idea if any of these people use cocaine.

Going through the numbers Mr. Saviano presents, you see that somebody is doing all this cocaine. The alternative is to believe that there's a vast oversupply of cocaine all over the world, being produced and trafficked, but not bought. We know that is not true. So people really are using this drug, and heroin, to the extent the author asserts. It is really tough to internalize, though. I really think I don’t know anybody who does cocaine. Really. And that no one I come into contact with knows anyone who does, either. I comfort myself in thinking that the purchasers of this drug are all those people, those other, vacuous, soulless suburban types who watch tv every night.  Of course, I watch tv every night too, but somehow everyone I know is different from these cocaine-purchasers who are tacitly destroying the world. Or propping up the international banking system with liquidity, if Mr. Saviano is to be believed.
Roberto Saviano

The Trail of Cocaine

Zero Zero Zero takes the reader through the financial and logistical roads that act as veins to the body Cocaine. Its delivery system, innovations in transport, sea shipping, hidden in fruit imports, are interesting as well as plausible. I always said that Donald Trump’s real interest in Mexico has to do with drugs, as his brother died of a drug overdose, and those walls and stops he wants to put in place are coming from a desire for revenge.

Zero Zero Zero is well-researched and a well-told story. The detailed recounting of modern drug-dealing history is impressive and depressing at the same time. But at the end of it, certain conclusions pull at my sleeves:
  1. People do drugs.  
  2. People always will try to sell drugs to the people who do drugs.
  3. Successful sellers of drugs are always murdered.

Zero Zero Zero is quite the eye-opener about how heroin and cocaine find its way around the world. No doubt there. But the book never takes a step back from all the blood to analyze the entire system.



Demand Demand Demand

Mr. Saviano details the supply part of the illegal drug business insightfully. It is interesting, though, that he ignores other side of the economic equation: demand for drugs.

Maybe the problem is that people do drugs. For it is the demand for cocaine and heroin that spurs all this other illegal activity. Eloquent descriptions of the history and shifts in drug cartels and their methods are informative.  It is even skin-crawling at times. But the primary engine of all this destruction is never addressed:  people want to do drugs. 

Is it Mr. Saviano's contention that the fight against this corruption can only take place through supply side attacks?  We don’t know because he never tells us. In reading this book, it becomes clear that demand is the only thing can be attacked in this War on Drugs. And yet, demand is not written about at all. It is the cause and the reason for every bloody act described in the book, and nothing is said about its role in stopping the overall system.
Victorian Street Gangs Ruled London

An historical look at other invasive crime syndicates would have been helpful. After all, there were criminal gangs before. Did they last for thousands of years to continue to feed off the misery of others?  No. They fell. How did that happen?  A detailed listing of gory crimes does little to enlighten the reader, and only convinces me more that I should never become a drug dealer.


Of course, the rebuttal will be that this is the beginning of a truly worldwide criminal enterprise. I don’t believe it. If 300-year-old Chinese pottery shards can be found at the Londontown archeological dig in Maryland, United States, globalism has been with us for a very long time.

The Cost of Truth

Roberto Saviano confesses his personal and emotional journey for this truth-telling, asking himself why would he do this, subject his wife and family to stress and worry, and possible danger themselves. He discusses the reality of being under police protection 24 hours a day for years as a result of his reporting on organized crime in Italy. And yet he cannot stop looking and telling us about it. And his research is thorough. It starts in the Eighties and explains how the Columbian cartels were displaced by Mexican ones, the trans-Atlantic alliances for the shipment of Columbian cocaine, and how American demand for illegal drugs feeds this violent and awful business.

I can relate to truth-telling as a role and a duty, but have never made the sacrifices of Roberto Saviano. He must love his country very much to sear truth into its skin at such a cost.

Cocaine Banking

Hearing the hopelessness in the author's words, the reader could reasonably start feeling a little depressed themselves. The story is presented as a fait accompli. There is no going back now, we are all under the thumb of illegal crime lords who are using their cash to prop up post-Great Recession banks and small businesses that require a boost in these economic times.

Rather than a catalog of torment, the author could have looked to the weaknesses in the system.  Instead, all the reader is left with is stomach pains and a dull wish for death.

Aside from that, this blood-dripping tale offers no solution, no hope. So this humble blogger will put up her interpretation for the way forward.

Cheer Up, Mr. Saviano!

The book is excruciating in its descriptions of the role of illegal drug profits in a post-2008 cash-strapped banking system.  The facade of our financial system is held together by the raw cash of illegal drug sales, it argues. I am not in a position to dispute that, and will not bother. 

Even if true, Mr. Saviano still has reason to hope. See, I know something about these upper class types of international finance and banking. Not as one of them, but better, as one who worked for them. I can assure Mr. Saviano the this current system of reliance on the liquidity of drug money will not last beyond its need. When the international economy gets its footing again, the uber-elites will turn and cut the throats of the thugs whose money they happily take now. And probably keep their money, too. It will be done as it always is, through law enforcement. 

In exchange for cooperation, banking leaders will be allowed to go on banking, and the drug dealers and producers will be either dead or in prison. American prison. So I do not lose hope, and ask Mr. Saviano that he not lose hope either.  In America, the toughest, meanest gang is the middle class. And they always win in the end. The thugs are being used, lured into a belief of their power.  Instead, they are like a cat on a bed, preening and unaware they are about to be thrown to the floor. But for the now, for the minute, they think they are in charge.

I debated before writing out this balm, believe me, Roberto. Why warn them? Then I realized it didn't matter. They were already dead.

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