Adam's book notes


Zero Zero Zero

Book cover

Author: Roberto Saviano

Book details

More people do cocaine than most people think.

Banks knowingly allow themselves to launder money from cocaine cartels. When they are caught the punishment is minimal in comparison to their size and wealth.

According to the Mafia, there's a critical difference between the law which keeps weak people safe, and the rules - how you should live based on honour.

Economic crises are good for criminal economies.

The economic crisis may be destroying democracies, destroying work, destroying hopes, destroying credit, destroying lives. But what the crisis is not destroying, and instead is strengthening, are criminal economies.

Now we have essentially no limit to what we can do, cocaine enables us to live that life.

Coke is the comprehensive answer to the most pressing concern of our day: the absence of limits. On coke, you’ll live more. You’ll network more—the first commandment of modern life. And the more you network, the happier you’ll be, the more fun you’ll have, the more emotions you’ll experience, the more you’ll sell. Whatever it is you sell, you’ll sell more of it. More. Always more.

Cocaine interacts with the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. The first makes you feel like everything is easy, and the second amplifies everything around you.

In places like Sinaloa, the illegal drug industry is the main job provider.

Some individuals are extremely prominent in the drug industry. Until his arrest in 2014, most of the drugs that Americans took would come through El Chapo.

Mafia bosses want to have movies made of their lives so they can mold how they're seen. To normal citizens they want to be seen as people with great wealth who are compelled to live as criminals due to world inequities. To their members and competitors they want to be seen as the most powerful and ferocious boss who must be feared.

When a boss is using the media to communicate this is an indication that he is starting to feel he is no longer the real boss.

Trafficked humans are used as drug mules. They're promised a new life beyond the border if they carry half a million dollars worth of drugs across it. The drugs and people pass through the same tunnels.

Drug dealing organisations will not tolerate drugs and disease in their own territory. It's seen as sacred, and, as with the Mafia, people who deal in their own territory will be punished.

Bosses of huge organisations have been known to propose alliances with presidents - e.g. Servando Gomez Martinez's proposal to President Calderon to help eliminate their mutual competitors. Calderon declined though.

Cocaine is a particularly well suited to dominate under capitalism.

All merchandise has to submit to the rules of the elastic. All but one. Cocaine. No market in the world brings in more revenue than the cocaine market. No financial investment in the world gives better returns than cocaine.

Cocaine is a safe asset. Cocaine is an anticyclical asset. Cocaine is the asset that fears neither resource shortages nor market inflation.

There are plenty of corners of the planet where people live without hospitals, without the web, without running water. But not without cocaine. According to the UN, in 2009, 21 tons of it were consumed in Africa, 14 in Asia, 2 in Oceania. More than a 101 in Latin America and the Caribbean. Everyone wants it, everyone does it, everyone who starts using it needs it. The costs are minimal; you can place it immediately, and the profit margin is extremely high. Cocaine is easier to sell than gold, and the revenue from it can exceed that of petroleum.

Holding access to cocaine gives you power. Wherever it's traded there'll be violent conflict. There's no way to involve unions, industrial plans, government assistance or court rules. If you are the strongest and cleverest, you will win.

The majority of people working in the industry are unskilled and interchangeable subjects that don't become rich. The bosses exploit the many to enrich a very few.

There are 3 ways to cut cocaine:

The war against drugs has been essentially ineffective in cutting supply and has extremely bad environmental consequences.

Plants are uprooted, fields carpet-bombed with fumigation planes, lands made barren with aggressive weed-killer treatments....The ecosystem of the country’s virgin forests is compromised; the ground and aquifers are filled with toxins; Colombia’s land is burned or polluted, incapable of producing anything of value in the short term.

It pushes the peasants growing coca into more dispersed and inaccessible areas, which works to the advantage of the drug bosses.

You can rip up a plant, but you can’t uproot the desire for well-being that leads to addiction, any more than you can eradicate greed. Cocaine is the fruit not of the earth but of man.

When investigators say they only manage to confiscate e.g. 10% of the cocaine going to Europe, this can be treated by the dealers as typical business risk. It can be lower than that a supermarket loses via theft or what some business lose from bounced cheques.

Whistleblowers and informants may suffer more than the drug bosses they inform on, even if the later prosecution is successful. When drug king-pins go to prison, they don't really suffer. They often move in and out of prisons, serving time in their own homes where they chose to live, surrounded by family and friends, with large amounts of money to cultivate their interests. Only the bosses who kill or are forced to live in hiding do as bad as those who report them.

Perhaps drug bosses rationalise their behaviour in the same way as other company executives do. After all, don't oil and plastic lead to car accidents and damage to the planet? And doesn't producing computers demands inputs such as coltan, a driver of massacres in the Congo?

Some banks essentially depended on the earnings from large criminal organisations to provide their liquid investment capital. Mafia money can help the financial system - too big to fail - survive.

A recent study by Alejandro Gaviria and Daniel Mejía, two economists at the University of Bogotá, revealed that 97.4 percent of the revenue from narco-trafficking in Colombia is regularly laundered through banking circuits in the United States and Europe by means of a complex series of financial operations.

Three hundred and fifty-two billion dollars: narco-trafficking profits equal more than a third of the entire banking system’s losses in 2009, according to the International Monetary Fund,

Legitimate businesses sometimes need to pay protection money. Per the FBI, the Austrian shopping chain Julius Meini pays $50k a month to "manage" its supermarkets in Russia.

Mafia organisations flourish in states with power voids. They exploit weaknesses where the state seems rotten compared to the order that a Mafia organisation offers.

In Russia:

The transition to capitalism was armed with neither laws nor adequate infrastructure. The brotherhoods, on the other hand, had money, predatory swiftness, and intimidation tactics: Who could possibly oppose them? The so-called new Russians—those who were getting rich at dizzying speeds with the new market openings—found it was convenient to pay a “tax” that guaranteed protection from other groups as well as helped resolve problems

Even the funds the United States and European countries donated to reinforce post-Soviet civil society contributed indirectly to fattening the Mafija.

Different Mafia groups tend to operate under similar rules.

Everything is codified and everything lives within the rules. What unites the camorrista and the vor are honor and loyalty, as well as the sacredness of certain gestures and the meting out of justice within the group. Even their rituals are similar.

The cocaine market is the epitome of free market spirit.

Cocaine can now be supplied in liquid form:

Liquid cocaine can make its way inside any hollow object, can impregnate any saturatable material, can dissolve in any drink, any creamy or liquid product, practically without adding any telltale weight.

Drug mules come from all over the world. Narcos teach them how to package and ingest capsules full of cocaine without hurting themselves of the product; they use their stomachs as storage.

Despite many potential concerns with the idea, it might be that total legalisation of the industry is the only answer. That would directly address the law of supply and demand that fuels the current situation.


Recent posts