Alex James - The Cocaine Diaries

View Segments Segment :

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Link
  • Help
  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Link
  • Help
Successfully saved clip
Find all your clips in My Lists
Failed to save clip
  • Transcript
  • Transcript

    Auto-Scroll: ONOFF 
    • 00:00


    • 00:31

      [MUSIC - BLUR, "SONG 2"]

    • 00:32

      ALEX JAMES: I'm Alex James and I'm a farmer.[SHEEP BLEATING]In a previous life, I played bass in the band Blur.[PIG SNORTS]Oh!Pork scratchings!

    • 00:53

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: And I recently hit the headlines for writingabout how I spent a million pounds on champagneand cocaine.

    • 00:58

      DAVE ROWNTREE: Alex is the real party animal. of the band.

    • 00:60

      ALEX JAMES: Where is the party?It's amazing, amazing-- amazing.This came to the attention of Colombian president AlvaroUribe.He sent me this letter, in which hesays, "I sign this heartfelt letter of invitationfor you to come to our beautiful countryand see not only the pain that the drug trade has wroughtupon us, but the hope and strength with which

    • 01:22

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: we keep moving forward."And I think I owe it to him to accept.[EXPLOSIONS]This is going to be my gift to President Uribe.Hope he likes cheese.

    • 01:44

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: It's food what brings people together, not the music.We're right in the thick of it here.It's terrifying.

    • 01:55

      CAMERAMAN: Yeah.

    • 01:57


    • 02:24

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: I wonder how many people who take cocaineknow anything about where it comes from.Colombia supplies 80% of all the world's coke, worth somethinglike $56 billion a year.50 journalists have been killed in the last five years,mainly for exposing trafficking, and corruptionis one of the most dangerous places on the planetfor a journalist to be.

    • 02:44

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: What am I doing here?Very good question.My first meeting today is with Vice President Santos.He wrote me this letter on behalf of the presidency.In a recent interview, Santos was quoted as saying,

    • 03:07

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: "We need to tell Europeans that every ounce of cocainethat they snort is tainted in blood."So why have you invited me here?What can I do?

    • 03:16

      FRANCISCO SANTOS: If the informationthat you are able to provide that you can see that you sawof the environmental damage convinces one person of saying,you know, I'm not going to do this,I'm going to stick with beer-- even gallons of it,it was well worth it.You saved a life there and probably saved a life here

    • 03:38

      FRANCISCO SANTOS [continued]: because that person that starts consuming coke,all that money comes here to finance landmines, destructionof the environment, terrorism, kidnapping-- displacement.So a person like you who has assumeda personal responsibility regarding this problemcan really help to show the other side of the coin.

    • 03:59

      FRANCISCO SANTOS [continued]: If I say it, they won't believe me.If you say it, because of what you saw,they'll believe you a lot more.They'll believe us a lot more.Great having you here.You know, we should bring Kate Moss here.

    • 04:13

      ALEX JAMES: Yeah, I think she should come.

    • 04:14

      FRANCISCO SANTOS: I think it would help her.

    • 04:31

      ALEX JAMES: This morning, we're taking an early flightto San Jose del Guaviare to meet the anti-narcotics policeunit responsible for the fumigation of the coca fieldsthere.The spraying is supported by American troopsand financed by American money and the herbicide they use,glyphosate, is the same one used in the poppy fieldsof Afghanistan.It's highly contentious.

    • 04:55

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: [KNOCKING]Bullet-proof glass, bullet-proof wheels,a guy with a loaded gun, the safety off and outof his pocket-- so it's amazing how quickly you getused to having an armed guard.I've only been here 24 hours and already, it's just normal.

    • 05:18

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: And that's just the way it is for a lot of peoplein Colombia.[HELICOPTER BLADES WHIRRING]I'm not on tour.I want to see everything.At this anti-narcotics base in the south,they're overseeing the chemical spraying

    • 05:40

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: of thousands of hectares of illegal coca plantations.Gustavo Vargas is a biologist and advisorto the Narcotics Affairs section of the American embassyin Colombia.Because it's quite widely used, weed killer this, isn't it?Is that what you call it?I mean, it's called a herbicide.But what does it do?

    • 05:60

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: What does it actually do?

    • 06:01

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Well, this is whatis called a wide-spectral herbicide.So basically, it--

    • 06:06


    • 06:07


    • 06:08

      ALEX JAMES: A wide-spectral-- OK.

    • 06:10

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: So everything that is green is going to be--

    • 06:13

      ALEX JAMES: Brown.

    • 06:14

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Yes.It is really high-impacting, a frequency higher than 90%.

    • 06:22

      ALEX JAMES: So 90% of the time that you spray, yousucceed in wiping out the crop.

    • 06:27

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Yes, sir.We use really high techniques, really sophisticated techniquesto put the product exactly in the flavor we want.

    • 06:37

      ALEX JAMES: Yeah.

    • 06:38

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: So the drip is minimum.There's nothing to worry about.

    • 06:43

      ALEX JAMES: Plan Colombia is a controversial $5-billion cocaeradication plan introduced in 2000.Every year, the US pours money into the military,who are engaged in their own war with rebel groups that'sattracted criticism around the world.The way this is really going to workis that we're going to be flying around trying to killeverything that's growing.And the people on the ground, some

    • 07:03

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: of the most free and dangerous terrorist groups in the world,are going to be trying to kill us.We're right in the thick of it here,26,000 hectares of coca plantations, 23,500 of whichhave already been destroyed-- 2,500 left to go.

    • 07:43

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: I'm strapped down in a Black Hawk,state-of-the-art helicopter gunship.We're about 1,500 feet above ground level.Now, I know an AK-47 assault rifleis accurate at 1,500 feet.Out of the Black Hawk's open doors,

    • 08:03

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: the immaculate rainforest stretchesas far as the eye can see, broken onlyby pockets of coca fields.Every now and again, the spray planesflash beneath us, fumigating.Vice President Santos talks of this spray being ineffectiveand insists the plants should be dug up by handand this unit was the first do takethis highly dangerous work.32 of them were killed last year.

    • 08:24

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: That's 10% of the workforce.They want me to see what they do so we're going to land.Apparently, this coca field may also be a minefield.

    • 08:45

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: So the Black Hawk set us down in a coca field.What's going on here, Gustavo?

    • 08:50

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Well, we have pre-jump plans.

    • 08:55

      ALEX JAMES: How old would these be?

    • 08:57

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: They don't look more than--

    • 08:58

      ALEX JAMES: Well, look at that.It's just like you can grow willow like that.It's like they just cut off a twigand stuck it in the ground.

    • 09:04

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Yes.Yes, absolutely right.Those plants come from cuttings.They would not come from seedbeds.

    • 09:10

      ALEX JAMES: And it's this little leaf.That's all they're after.

    • 09:15


    • 09:18

      ALEX JAMES: So Vice President Santosthinks this is the best way to eradicate coca growing.

    • 09:25

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Well, yeah, at leastin terms of manual methods, this is really great.

    • 09:32

      ALEX JAMES: You're going to get dug up there, mate.We should move out of the way.[HELICOPTER BLADES WHIRRING]We've only got a 10-minute window hereso we've got to get back on the helicopter.You see how difficult it is trying to basically pull upcoca plantations in the heart of rebel territory.See if I get onto a helicopter without stepping on a mine.

    • 09:60

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: Thankfully, we get back to base without being fired at-- not asuncommon as you might think.So all these little patches are like Band-Aidswhere it's been shot.

    • 10:10

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Exactly.

    • 10:10

      ALEX JAMES: So there's one there--

    • 10:12

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: One here--

    • 10:12

      ALEX JAMES: One there--

    • 10:12

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: That's a--

    • 10:13

      ALEX JAMES: Our wing panel there.

    • 10:15

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Yeah, on the wing panel.

    • 10:15

      ALEX JAMES: So this has taken a fair bit of flak.

    • 10:17

      GUSTAVO VARGAS: Every mission, theydon't know if they are going to return back to the base.

    • 10:23

      ALEX JAMES: Are these planes flownby Americans or Colombians?The planes behind me are American.The flight crews are American.Now, the Colombians have been very happy to talk to usbut the Americans have made it clearthey won't answer any questions whatsoever.

    • 10:44

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: I'm not an expert.That seems a little bit odd.[BUZZ]Very confusing-- there's no obvious good guys and bad guyshere.

    • 11:05

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: There's just a problem, which is cocaine,which is causing problems here and it's causing problemswherever it ends up.So that was the lesson of the day.

    • 11:25

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: Know the enemy.[BUZZ]It's 3 o'clock in the afternoon in Bogotaand I'm about to meet a dealer, a big shot.

    • 11:46

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: He's at the door.We can't tell the whole story without talking to themand I've got quite a lot of questions for him.Dealers-- nobody loves them.They might get invited to a lot of weddingsbut no one shows up to their funerals.

    • 12:00


    • 12:03

      ALEX JAMES: Alex.Cheers.

    • 12:05

      DEALER: Milan, mi amigo.

    • 12:06

      ALEX JAMES: Thanks for coming.Cheers.Come in.Bien.

    • 12:09


    • 12:10

      ALEX JAMES: Thank you very much.

    • 12:12


    • 12:19

      ALEX JAMES: It's puro?

    • 12:20

      DEALER: "Pura."

    • 12:21

      ALEX JAMES: "Pura."

    • 12:21

      DEALER: "Pura."

    • 12:22

      ALEX JAMES: Don't worry.I'm not tempted.

    • 12:23


    • 12:24

      ALEX JAMES: So I was in a band and this stuff,it's the oil that greases the rock and roll industry.And people are paying 60 pounds a gram for this in London.Actually, this is pure.You'd probably get 180 quid for a gram of that.Is that the lifeblood of your business?

    • 12:46


    • 13:03

      ALEX JAMES: So how does the business work?Is it easy?Does it take all day?Do you have to get up and treat it-- is it an office job?

    • 13:11


    • 13:22

      ALEX JAMES: He tells me he used to get cocaine outof the country in surfboards until onefellow over the airport spinning its contentsall over the floor.

    • 13:29


    • 13:40

      ALEX JAMES: I'm from England.Is that a big market for you now, England, London,Manchester, Birmingham-- Saint Austell?

    • 13:50


    • 14:23

      MILAN: OK.Gracias.

    • 14:24

      ALEX JAMES: Cheers.

    • 14:25

      MILAN: Hasta luego.

    • 14:27

      ALEX JAMES: You're friendly, aren't you?Was that the devil or was that just quite a nice blokeselling really good drugs to people who need them?I don't know.It's really, really not obvious.But I don't think you can start calling anyone who uses coke

    • 14:52

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: a complete arsehole or anyone who sells ita complete arsehole.They're just ordinary people involved with a chemical nobodycan control.Nobody can control their cocaine intake-- nobody.

    • 15:18

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: The tragic figure in that situation isn't the dealer.It's his little mate.

    • 15:43

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: [BUZZ]This is Medellin.It was from here that Pablo Escobar's infamous carteldominated this country throughout the '80s and '90s.Escobar was brutal, said to be responsible for the deathsof tens of thousands of people.

    • 16:03

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: His business line was simple, "plata o promo,""money or bullets," meaning, "be bribed or die."It worked for him.In 1989, El Patron, "the boss," was listed by Forbes Magazineas the world's seventh richest man,controlling a cocaine smuggling business worth $30 billiona year.Escobar is such an important figure

    • 16:25

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: in the story of cocaine in ColombiaI feel I need to know more about him.I'm in the neighborhood where he grew up to meet his auntie.She helped him evade the police, the army, and special forcesthrough his final days.She was the last woman to see him alive.This is the barrio or district of Envigado,where Pablo grew up, and this is where his auntie lives.

    • 16:49

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: Como estas?

    • 16:50

      LUZMILA GAVIRIA: Buenas tardes.

    • 16:51

      ALEX JAMES: Mucho gusto.

    • 16:52


    • 16:57

      ALEX JAMES: Thank you so much for inviting us into your home.The first thing I want to ask you is Pablois the subject of the biggest manhunt in history.He had American special forces, Colombian special forceslooking for him, and he came to youfor help in his hour of need.How were you able to help him?

    • 17:15


    • 17:36

      ALEX JAMES: Pablo obviously was a good manto deal with if you wanted to deal with him.But if you didn't, he was very ruthless, a very brutal man.What did he want?

    • 17:48


    • 18:14

      ALEX JAMES: Do you think that peoplewho use drugs in the countries that they end up inshare some of this responsibility for allthis bloodshed and suffering and horrible violence?

    • 18:25


    • 19:39

      ALEX JAMES: We're back in Bogota.It's 8 o'clock at night.I'm discovering that cocaine and violence areinextricable here in Colombia.I'm out of my depth.It's a long, long, long way from the cheeky linethat I did at party in Notting Hill.It's terrifying.This is probably the hardest thing I've ever said

    • 19:60

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: but I'm about to meet a contract killer usedby one of the cartels here in the city.Apparently, he's going to be disguised as a taxi drivertoday.We want to find out how busy he is.

    • 20:28


    • 20:43

      ALEX JAMES: How is a hitman used by the cocaine gangs?

    • 20:47


    • 21:00

      ALEX JAMES: What would be the minimum debt that you'dbe called to act upon?

    • 21:04


    • 21:11

      ALEX JAMES: Is all the work related to cocaine ultimately?

    • 21:13


    • 21:43

      ALEX JAMES: Is there a lot of work?Are you busy?

    • 21:46


    • 22:07

      ALEX JAMES: I was just starting to feel really relaxedand then I asked him if he had a gun with himand he just whipped it out from under his leg.I had no idea it was right there.Fuck, man.

    • 22:21


    • 22:23

      ALEX JAMES: Is it a Baretta?

    • 22:24


    • 22:26

      ALEX JAMES: Brilliant.Well, I think we should get the fuck out of here now.

    • 23:07

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: Well, it's a shame we can't show his facebecause he's the best-looking guy we've seen so far.He completely put me at my ease.He's a soldier, basically, a private soldier-- cool guy.Also, it's so easy to forget who you're dealing with.

    • 23:28

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: He's one tough guy but it was sexy.See why people like it-- it's exciting.That's the business end.What about the people who actually make

    • 23:49

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: this stuff, farmers like me?We're flying to El Choco, one hour from the city of Cali.It's in Colombia's biggest coca-producing region,the district of Narino.Farmers in El Choco process their own base cocaine,

    • 24:12

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: known as "pasta."They sell it on to middlemen in illegal jungle factoriesthat turn it into pure cocaine.It's a bit like a wheat farmer turning his wheat into flourand selling it on to a bakery to make bread.There it is below us, El Choco, a community of 32,000 people.The landing strip is just a tiny break in the rainforest canopy.

    • 24:35

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: The runway is immaculately maintained.Why would a tiny farming communityneed a state of the art tarmac runway?I wonder.So just arrived in the jungle-- we'regoing to hop on a boat and head for a coca farm.

    • 25:38


    • 25:43

      ALEX JAMES: The farm belongs to Sotero Micolta.He's a widower and he lives here with six of his children.One of his sons was recently killedby rebels further downstream.

    • 25:53

      BOAT OWNER: Un amigo, Alex.

    • 25:54

      ALEX JAMES: Hola.Mucho gusto.

    • 25:56

      BOAT OWNER: Sote, Antonio--

    • 25:58


    • 26:04

      ALEX JAMES: Gracias.

    • 26:06


    • 26:12

      ALEX JAMES: His farm is 20 minutes' walk away.He was recently targeted by the spray planes.As I reached his land, I can see clearlywhere the glyphosate has hit.Nearly everything's dead.

    • 26:28


    • 26:36

      ALEX JAMES: Has this been sprayed?

    • 26:38


    • 26:38

      ALEX JAMES: So we went on a spray--

    • 26:39


    • 26:43

      ALEX JAMES: Well, we went on a spraying missionand they said that they only spray coca.So that's not true, is it?

    • 26:49


    • 26:59

      ALEX JAMES: Is the coca more valuable than the bananasor the coffee as a crop?

    • 27:03


    • 27:19

      ALEX JAMES: Sotero Micolta only started growing cokesix years ago.Prior to that, he earned $132 a month.As a coca farmer, he can earn more than $550.The deeper I delve into cocaine in Colombia,the more complicated it gets.Right behind me, they're harvestingcoca leaves that were sprayed just four weeks ago.Coca can be cropped four to six times a year

    • 27:41

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: and once harvested, farmers take it for processing.That's where we're going now.The land belongs to the mother of one of the boat crew.She'd rather we didn't name him so I won't.

    • 28:02

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: We're just getting into rainy season hereand my gringo Bond Street boots aren't cutting it.The going is hard and heavy.Civil war has been raging here since the '60s and this jungleis the battleground of the rebel factions.On the left are FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces

    • 28:24

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: of Colombia, evenly matched and opposedby the ELN, the National Liberation Army.[GUNSHOT][GUNFIRE]Both these are being fought by the Colombian army, funded

    • 28:45

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: by American money.Then there are paramilitary organizationswho are fighting everybody.The cash generated by cocaine continuesto feed the war machine.I can't imagine living and fighting in this terrain.[INAUDIBLE]

    • 29:05

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: Here we are, a cocaine workshop.It's an extraordinary process.First, the leaves are ground and mixed with cement.

    • 29:25

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: Then petrol is added.This releases an alkaloid in the leaf.Cold water and sulfuric acid next-- drain off the gasoline.

    • 29:47

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: That leaves a paste.Oil the paste.Add a reactive-- smells worse than blown cheese.

    • 30:11

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: In this region, there are hundreds of makeshift cocainelabs just like this one.Farmers here call them [SPANISH] and it'sin these ramshackle huts that they turn their coca leavesinto cocaine base.It's then sold on to bigger labs for processinginto cocaine hydrochloride, coke, Charlie, Chang, whatever.This is what they make here, "pasta basica."

    • 30:32

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: About this many leaves, as many as fit into this barrel,would make about this much pasta basica, 50 grams.This'll make 25 grams of pure cocaine which, when it's cut,will be worth about 3,000 pounds in London.We pack up and head to civilizationand a worrying development.

    • 31:02

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: We had some quite disturbing news about an hour ago.One of the team that we flew with at San Jose delGuaviare, the Air Force base to the south,

    • 31:22

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: was killed today on a manual coca-picking eradicationprogram, what we were doing three days ago.[BUZZ]

    • 31:54

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon here in Bogotaand we're at Modelo Prison.We're here to meet a mule.That's someone who takes drugs across borders.All I know about this mule is that he's Americanand he's called "Steve."It's a shithole.That's how it was described to me by somebody outside.

    • 32:16

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: There's a guy in here who's killed more than 150 children.There's some fairly nasty people in here-- about the last placen the world you'd want to be.

    • 32:45

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: We're in.I do hope we can get out.There's 4,591 inmates in this prison, 250 of whichare foreigners.All of those 250 are in here for drug-related offenses--so either mules or money launderingor some kind of drug-related crime.

    • 33:10

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: That's your man at right.

    • 33:16


    • 33:34

      STEVE: First trip I made, I didn't even wantto know what I was carrying.

    • 33:37

      ALEX JAMES: Really?So it could have been--

    • 33:40

      STEVE: It could have been 300 kilos of cow shit.I wouldn't have cared, just as long as when I got to New York,I got paid.

    • 33:46

      ALEX JAMES: And how much did you get paid?

    • 33:47

      STEVE: 12,000 US.

    • 33:49

      ALEX JAMES: 12,000 US-- for how much, do you know?

    • 33:51

      STEVE: Three kilos-- the money's too good, especiallyif you can do a couple trips and then invest in the productyourself.That's where the money's at, not being somebody's mule.I know all the Spaniards that are in my patio, 99% of them

    • 34:14

      STEVE [continued]: are mules and they all are here for cocaine.I got caught at Bogota, El Dorado.

    • 34:22

      ALEX JAMES: That's the other word for Bogota.

    • 34:24

      STEVE: Yeah.Wherever your watchers and listenersare who plan on doing this trip, stay the fuck out of Bogota.I know plenty of people in cartels,they have done 10, 12 trips and no problems at all.

    • 34:37

      ALEX JAMES: You just don't care, do you?You don't care.You just--

    • 34:40

      STEVE: Pretty much, no.

    • 34:44

      ALEX JAMES: So what would stop you?

    • 34:49

      STEVE: Probably a healthy sentence or a bullet,one or the other.

    • 34:54

      ALEX JAMES: I'm leaving here with a great sense of relief.It's a very impressive place.Steve or whoever he was obviouslyhasn't learned his lesson.As soon as he gets out, he's going to do it all over again.In fact, the people he works for will even buy him outso he can do it again quicker.

    • 35:18

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: So I've got to get my Batman gear on nowbecause going from Jailhouse Rock to the presidency--my appointment with the president is imminent.I've got the cheese.

    • 35:41

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: Let's do some statesman stuff.That's a quantum leap directly from the squalor of prisonto the majesty of state.I'm about to meet Colombian President Alvaro Uribein the Presidential Palace.He's a hard-lined right-winger.

    • 36:02

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: He was elected to a second term in May 2006and he's been very tough on rebel groups and drugtraffickers.Some say he's driven by the fact that his father waskilled by rebels 20 years ago.

    • 36:20

      ALVARO URIBE: Alexander.Alexander.

    • 36:23

      ALEX JAMES: Mr. President.

    • 36:23

      ALVARO URIBE: Very nice to see you.

    • 36:24

      ALEX JAMES: Very nice to be here.

    • 36:25

      ALVARO URIBE: Thank you for coming.

    • 36:26

      ALEX JAMES: Thank you for having me.I'd like to present you some of my cheese, if I may.

    • 36:30

      ALVARO URIBE: Oh.Thank you very much.

    • 36:32

      ALEX JAMES: From hard drugs to soft cheese--it's very smelly but--[SNIFFS]Goat cheese.

    • 36:39

      ALVARO URIBE: Excellent.Thank you.

    • 36:40

      ALEX JAMES: Good.

    • 36:41

      ALVARO URIBE: Alex, I am ready.

    • 36:43

      ALEX JAMES: Do all the problems relate to cocainein one way or another?Is that the root?Is that what's causing all or most or some of the problemshere?

    • 36:54

      ALVARO URIBE: Of course.We have terrorist groups because we have cocaine.We have environmental problems because we have cocaine.

    • 37:03

      ALEX JAMES: Do you feel anger towards the people whoare taking drugs in England who-- they'retaking cocaine in England who know nothingabout what's going on here?How do you feel about--

    • 37:14

      ALVARO URIBE: Of course.Of course.Every dose of cocaine is gasolinefor assassinations in Colombia.In Europe, consumption is growing.

    • 37:30

      ALEX JAMES: Really?

    • 37:30

      ALVARO URIBE: Therefore, at this moment,we need much stronger effort in Europe, firstto intercept traffickers, to intercept trafficking,to stop illegal businesses in the European city streets,and to do all the necessary to stop this growth of cocaine

    • 37:59

      ALVARO URIBE [continued]: consumption in Europe.

    • 38:00

      ALEX JAMES: I think if people realizedthat every kilogram of cocaine is basicallyarriving in someone's tomb, maybe theywouldn't think it was quite cool.

    • 38:17

      ALVARO URIBE: And here, cocaine is the evil.That is determining many problems for this country.It's the cause of our great tragedy.

    • 38:30

      ALEX JAMES: Yes.It was magisterial-- brave guy, many attempts on his life.I support him-- support that guy, measured statesmanin a country that needed one badly.

    • 38:55

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: He's right, though.There are so many wonderful, wonderful things hereand really only one bad one.

    • 39:04

      CAMERAMAN: You're becoming quite anti-coke, aren't you?

    • 39:06

      ALEX JAMES: I'm surprised but whenyou see what it does to a country like this,I think anybody would.They'd be able to do it.Just take themselves a bit more.

    • 39:34

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: We're at Anti-Narcotics Police Base in Tunja, 100 miles northof Cali.We flew up from Bogota this morning at daybreakto join a raid to destroy a cocaine factory that'sbeen located in the rainforest nearby.These men are Junglas, elite jungle commandosactually set up and trained by the SAS in 1989.

    • 39:56

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: And we're about to get briefed on the mission.The Junglas are feared by all factions and rightly so.So far this year, they've destroyed 100 cocaine

    • 40:16

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: laboratories, seizing 42 tons of cocaine.And this is what they do when they find them.[EXPLOSION]These pictures were shot by the crew before I arrived here.Now it's my turn.The Junglas have information from a paid informant

    • 40:37

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: that there's a working cocaine laboratory not far from here.They just had a briefing and they're told there are 10 to 12heavily armed drug traffickers cooking at the moment.We're going to take Black Hawks as far as we canand then I'm going to have to walk for another hourto get there.Jungle labs can produce up to 200 kilos of coke every day.

    • 40:59

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: In London, this would be worth 24 million pounds--one lab, one day, 24 million pounds.There are thought to be thousandsof factories like this dotted throughout the rainforest.

    • 41:20

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: But finding and destroying them is not easy.It's a cat and mouse game, as I'm about to find out.For three days, the team try to hit their targetbut are held back by the weather, misinformation, enginefailure, and sheer bad luck.We've been dropped in a field about 10 minutes

    • 41:41

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: from the target.The helicopters have gone off to pick upthe first wave of soldiers.Once they've gone in, we'll follow.The informant's apparently very reliableso there's a good chance we'll find something there.Key to these missions are paid informants, many of whom

    • 42:02

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: work in the factories.Once their stories are checked, theylead the expedition, dressed as soldierscarrying plastic machine guns in case it's a trap.To think all this manpower and hardwarecould be put into motion on the word of one person.

    • 42:29

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: There's a man at the edge of the group wearing a face mask.That must be him.So you're the informant.This whole operation's revolving around you.What do you have to do now?

    • 42:43


    • 43:00

      ALEX JAMES: So this isn't the first timethat you've been an informant.Why did you decide to become one?

    • 43:10


    • 43:18

      ALEX JAMES: How did you find out about this cocaine laboratory?

    • 43:23


    • 43:27

      ALEX JAMES: Are you scared?

    • 43:29


    • 43:53

      ALEX JAMES: Are you afraid of dying?

    • 43:55


    • 44:04

      ALEX JAMES: The weather's clear.The first wave of choppers went in.Unfortunately, there's engine problems with oneof the helicopters so we've had to cancel.It gives you an idea of what they're up against-- justso tricky.At the end of day three, the mission is aborted.

    • 44:25

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: I can't begin to imagine how much all of this has cost.[PLAYING GUITAR][BUZZ]I thought we'd be good to see the hitman again because it'sabout a week since I saw him.I wondered if he'd been busy.And we were trying to call him.

    • 44:46

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: We couldn't get through and we discovered laterit's because he was killing somebody.But he came back to the hotel eventually.I think he'd been crying-- killed someone yesterday,as well.He's very shaken--Hi.

    • 45:02


    • 45:03

      ALEX JAMES: Completely different from the last time I saw him.

    • 45:06

      HITMAN: How are you?

    • 45:07

      ALEX JAMES: Good, man.How are you?Likewise.Thanks.Thanks for coming back, man.It's very short, this, but it'll make a big differenceto the film, I think.I got here a week ago and I want to get acrossto people who watch this film what's happening here.

    • 45:29

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: Have you been busy this week?What's been going on?

    • 45:35


    • 45:42

      ALEX JAMES: Do you think if European and American peoplesee this film, they'll stop taking cocaine?

    • 45:50


    • 46:34

      ALEX JAMES: Just tell him that people in Europehave got no fucking idea where cocaine-- theyknow that milk comes from cows.But cocaine, they've got no idea it comes from a fucking cocaplant-- no idea what's happening here.

    • 46:49


    • 47:10

      ALEX JAMES: OK.We're done then.

    • 47:33

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: All is quiet in El Mortino, just an hour outside Bogota.It's hard to imagine anywhere more bucolic, more peaceful.We're here to meet Los Rangers delNorte, "the Rangers of the North," a band famousfor their songs about drug traffickingand the Colombian underworld.The drug war's been running for decades and this kind of musicis well-established and very popular.

    • 47:55

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: The songs, known as "narco corridos," "narco ballads,"are banned from Colombian radio and television.We're about to meet one of the genre's biggest stars.

    • 48:04


    • 48:17

      ALEX JAMES: You were asked to writea song for a notorious drug trafficker called"the Mexican."Is that true?

    • 48:25


    • 48:53

      ALEX JAMES: By mythologizing these characters,aren't you glamorizing violence and profiting from misery?

    • 48:58


    • 49:28

      ALEX JAMES: As it turns out, Humbertohas a gig this afternoon.It'd be rude not to go.[MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 49:35


    • 49:50

      ALEX JAMES: It's funny.I really never expected to end this filmwith a gig but it seems quite appropriate,a band singing songs about drug traffickingto a happy crowd in beautiful surroundingsand yet none of the band drink or smoke, let alone take drugs.It sums this place up perfectly, a beautiful country,a beautiful country full of contradictions.

    • 50:26

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: There's not one government that's seriouslyconsidering legalizing cocaine but governmentsare incapable of upholding drug laws.If you can't stop people taking drugs,you won't be able to stop people making drugs.I'm going back to my farm now and I can't helpbut think that if farmers here were given more of a chanceand more of their amazing produce was available,

    • 50:47

      ALEX JAMES [continued]: the world's best coffee, chocolate,and a fruit for every day of the year, if we could layour hands on that, we'd be well on the road to peacein Columbia, something they surely deserve.

    • 51:33


Alex James - The Cocaine Diaries

View Segments Segment :


Rock musician Alex James travels to Colombia to speak with President Alvero Uribe about the glamorization of cocaine. On this journey, he visits with figures in the legal and illegal sides of the drug industry, including both cartel leaders, informants, hitmen, the family of Pablo Escobar, and drug enforcement agents trying to eradicate the crops.

Alex James - The Cocaine Diaries

Rock musician Alex James travels to Colombia to speak with President Alvero Uribe about the glamorization of cocaine. On this journey, he visits with figures in the legal and illegal sides of the drug industry, including both cartel leaders, informants, hitmen, the family of Pablo Escobar, and drug enforcement agents trying to eradicate the crops.

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website

Back to Top