Column by Loretta Redd
It wasn’t the Irish who floated up to the beaches near Refugio on St. Patrick’s Day, but there was plenty of green to go around! Yet another panga boat was discovered, along with its bales of marijuana, but like little leprechauns, the transporters were nowhere to be found.
A proliferation of panga boats seem to be heading into our Central Coast faster than the cruise ships and blue whales this season. Recent Coast Guard notices suggest that these drug and human smuggling vessels are launched from Mexico every three days. The distance between Mexico and the Central Coast is roughly 500 miles, and they travel along shipping routes sixty miles offshore.
Guess their gas prices must be lower than ours. Some make it to their destinations undetected, others may be lost at sea altogether, but at least twenty have made their way to Santa Barbara County shores in the last year.
The volume of marijuana carried by these broad hulled, lightweight, camouflaged boats is significant: 2000 pounds in this most recent haul, 2500 pounds found at Pt. Magu, 1500 pounds at Malibu, and just last week, 1700 pounds on the beach at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Combined street value of just this recent flotilla? Over $14 million. Maybe Governor Jerry Moonbeam should start selling the stuff to pay off California’s debt, instead of holding it as evidence.
In addition to weed, the panga often carry illegal immigrants who pay $5-10,000 apiece to make the journey, and often end up as shark food if a lighter boat ensures having the necessary fuel to make it to shore. Besides the idiocy of landing at a popular public beach and a U.S. military base, the truth is very few arrests have been made. Perhaps if the smugglers would call ahead to the Sheriff’s Narcotic Investigation Unit, or to Homeland Security, they’d be able to intercept the occupants, rather than the cargo.
We’ve heard a lot from politicians throughout the last election and since on matters of illegal immigration. But where was the discussion about the “war on drugs” that carries a $238.2 billion (FY 2013) Federal Drug Control budget? This doesn’t even factor in criminal justice, crime victim, emergency room and treatment costs, lost productivity, police enforcement and corrections costs.
The website DrugWarFacts.org states that in 2012, the total cost of our Federal drug ‘control’ was $1.5 trillion. That’s a lot of money, even though the shock value of $1 trillion (a one followed by twelve zeros) has worn off considerably in today’s fanciful world of federal funding.
The budget for the DEA has increased forty-fold since its 1973 inception under Pres. Richard Nixon. From its initial $65million and 2800 employees carrying out five goals of “drug eradication,” it has been so successful in NOT meeting its mission, that it’s now grown to over 11,000 employees with a budget of $2.6 billion.
Which doesn’t include the Arlington, Virginia DEA Museum, where “admission is free,” for the self-guided tour and you can purchase stuffed K9 dogs and holiday ornaments in their gift store to remind you of the various tributes and displays to their overall utter failure as a drug-deterring agency. Open 10-4:00 Tuesday through Friday…must be those government furloughs.
Let’s come back to California for some up-to-date reality checks on the Mexican and American government’s attempts to eradicate illegal drugs. Stated succinctly by Eduardo Porter in a recent New York Times article, “…the struggle on which they (Mexico and the U.S.) have spent billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of lives over the last four decades has failed. Its threadbare victories– a drug seizure here, a captured kingpin there– pale against its cost in blood and treasure. And its collateral damage, measured in terms of social harm, has become too intense to ignore.”