JASON HECHT: Good afternoon, everyone. On behalf of Wendy Wolford, director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and vice provost for International Affairs. It's my pleasure to welcome you to today's roundtable. My name is Jason Hecht. I am associate director for academic program and of the Einaudi Center and also celebrating the five year anniversary of earning my PhD from Cornell this weekend. Thank you.
But don't worry, you're only stuck with me temporarily. Wendy you will be joining us a bit later to moderate the Q&A. In particular, I would like to welcome those who have journeyed from afar to celebrate their time at Cornell this weekend. Cornell is a special place. And though we are here to engage and discuss the international, I do think it is fair to say that there are few places more lovely than Ithaca in the summertime and wish you a wonderful weekend of laughter and fun with friends old and new.
Before introducing our panelists, I would like to tell you a bit about the Einaudi Center and the work that we do year round on behalf of Cornell's faculty and students. Founded in 1961, the center houses eight area studies and thematic programs with whom we organize, stimulate, and support research, teaching, and outreach programs and activities to enhance graduate and undergraduate education and to prepare Cornelius to contribute in the international sphere.
We are committed to multidisciplinary and collaborative research and teaching and seek to integrate international and area studies into the intellectual life of our university. Among many other activities throughout the year, our faculty and staff organize speakers series, conferences, performances, and roundtables like this one.
So if you enjoy what you see today, I encourage you to visit our website or to follow us on social media, where you'll find that many of our events are recorded and made available via the Cornell Katz video platform, like this one will be. This year, we focus the attention of our annual reunions roundtable on trafficking. As legitimate international trade has increased over the past several decades. So has illegal traffic and everything from drugs and human beings to wild animal parts
people engage in illegal trade or trafficking for different reasons. For some, it is a necessary means of survival or even a once culturally appropriate livelihood. While for others, it is a mercenary exploitation of vulnerable populations. Today, our interdisciplinary panel of Cornell experts will examine the trafficking of drugs, wildlife, and people worldwide, and in doing so explore its varieties, drivers, actors, consequences, and implications. They will draw on their in-depth regional expertise to explain how trafficking operates and is perceived differently in different contexts.
By better understanding the social, cultural, political, and economic dynamics of trafficking, we hope to better position ourselves to understand this multifaceted and dynamic global phenomenon. At this point, I will beg the forgiveness of our panelists by introducing them solely by their name and title. Needless to say, though, all our accomplished scholars, researchers, teachers, whose publications, appointments, and accolades would take up the entirety of our time were I to read them to you.
Briana Beltran is clinical teaching fellow at Cornell Law School. And Gunisha Kaur is Cornell class of '06 and Weill Cornell Medicine class of 2010, is assistant professor of anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine and medical director of the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights. Briana and Gunisha will discuss human trafficking, focusing on labor trafficking and human trafficking and health respectively.
They will be followed by Yula Kapetanakos, PhD Class of '14, who currently serves as a senior analyst for combating wildlife trafficking strategy and partnerships at US Fish and Wildlife Services and will analyze recent trends in this area. Last but not least, Kenneth Roberts, Richard J Schwartz professor of government, chair of the government department, and director of Eiunaldi's nowadays Latin American Studies program, will provide comment on drug trafficking in the Americas.
Each panelist will speak for roughly 10 minutes, and we will follow those commentaries with a discussion audience Q&A moderated by Wendy. Before I leave, please allow me to thank you for sharing some of your special weekend with us, especially given the good weather. And without further ado, please welcome our first panelist, Briana Beltran.
BRIANA BELTRAN: Good afternoon, everyone. So I'm going to spend a few minutes today talking about labor trafficking, and my goals are twofold. First, I want to give more context to the idea of labor trafficking. And second, I'm going to do so with a specific focus on the intersection between US temporary foreign worker programs and the anti-trafficking laws in the United States. And in doing so, I want to illustrate how these programs are inherently exploitative and can all too easily tried into illegality. The anti-trafficking laws in the US can be a useful tool to address these problems.
So I'm going to start by talking about a case of labor trafficking. It was an important case that got a lot of publicity a few years ago, both groundbreaking because it was one of the first major labor trafficking cases involving temporary foreign workers, but also, in many ways, is typical of what goes on in these programs.
So beginning in about 2006, nearly 500 Indian workers were recruited to the Gulf Coast to repair machinery that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina. They came to the US on temporary visas called H2B visas, which are visas that employers apply for. Before coming to the US, the workers were made promises of well-paying jobs and green cards. They were paid up to $20,000 in recruitment fees, which required them to take on significant debt, and they paid these to a recruiter and lawyer who worked for signal international, which was their employer.
Once they got to the US, they were housed in crowded trailers that were watched by guards, charged over $1,000 a month for their housing, and they learned that the promises of their green cards were false. So they sought help from local advocates, which led to a dramatic incident in which signal and a private security company initiated a raid on worker housing to try to locate and privately deport the complaining workers. One worker was so distraught by this incident that he attempted suicide.
In 2008, the workers who'd been represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, among other organizations, filed a lawsuit alleging that they had been the victims of labor trafficking. The case was split into several cases. And the first of these went to trial in federal court in New Orleans in early 2015. And I was able to observe a few days of the trial, including some of the testimony from the workers in that case. After several weeks, the jury ruled in favor of the five workers in that case and awarded them $14 million. The photo on the screen is of the legal team, as well as one of the plaintiffs who won at trial.
A few months later, the company declared bankruptcy and settled all pending cases for $20 million. And then a few months after that, there was a pretty unprecedented step in that the company issued a public apology to the former workers. I've excerpted some of it on the slide. And, really, I just want to highlight that some of the language in the apology where, it acknowledges the dignitary harm that the workers had suffered and the hardship that it caused them and their families.
So I'm going to step back a second now and talk a little bit about the law. And when I say "labor trafficking," what do I mean? So the language up here is the definition under US law of labor trafficking. I'm not going to go through it all in detail, but I want to kind of think about it conceptually in terms of three components.
So, first, there's an act that the trafficker undertakes. There's a means-- and this is going to be important-- I'll come back to this later-- using force, fraud, or coercion. And then there's a purpose. More simply, for our purposes today, I want to think about it also in this way, that it's making someone believe something bad will happen to them if they leave their place of work.
Two other notes, I think people in the public often think of smuggling when you think of trafficking. Under US law, you don't need smuggling. It's not a requirement. It does, however, require work, so whoever's been trafficked has to have worked.
So this definition comes from a law called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, known as the TVPA, which was passed in 2000. The TVPA is known for taking an approach called the three P's, which stands for first prosecution.
Fundamentally, it's a criminal law, so they're criminal provisions to target, both labor trafficking and sex trafficking, as well as other acts that are related to trafficking, such as confiscating someone's documents or passports. Second, protection, so it provides social services and refugee benefits, as well as immigration remedies for trafficking victims who have cooperated with law enforcement. It's meant to basically encourage people to come forward, to contact authorities about their trafficking.
And then, finally, prevention. So the State Department annually releases what's known as the Trafficking in Persons Report, which evaluates all the countries around the world on these three metrics, including recommendations for improvement. And that's available on the State Department website.
Then, since 2000, there have been several amendments. I won't get into detail, but one important one is, in 2003, they amended it to include what's called "a private right of action," which is a legal term, basically meaning that it allows victims to directly sue their traffickers for violations of the criminal laws.
So switching again, I'm going to loop back into the intersection between labor trafficking and temporary foreign worker programs. So what are these programs? There are programs that allow people to enter the United States on temporary visas to work here. They involve various type of workers, industries, and visa types, as well as visa names. But they have several features in common.
So, first, they're applied by the employers, as I previously mentioned. Workers are only allowed to work for that employer. So their immigration status is tied to that employer entirely. It's literally on their visa. So on this, you can see at the bottom, it says the North Carolina Growers Association, so that worker was brought into work for that association of growers. If a worker quits or is fired, then they of status. It's often common in low-wage industries and in isolated settings. So, for example, in agriculture, in the hospitality industry, or working as a domestic worker in the home of a diplomat, these are common visa types.
Also, workers take out loans and often are in deep debt to pay for pre-departure expenses, such as recruitment fees or travel expenses. Some of the programs prohibit these while other less regulated programs do actually allow it.
So how do these legal features of temporary foreign worker programs turn to something unlawful? So I've included again, at the top, the definition of labor trafficking as a reminder, and I want to focus specifically on the force, fraud, or coercion, and specifically the latter two, fraud, or coercion. So thinking back to the signal case I opened with, those workers were told to false promises about getting a green card.
It could also be false promises about pay or other job terms. When they got here or after hearing that, they went deep into debt to pay their recruitment fees. And then, when they were here, they were charged for their housing. So they were financially very vulnerable and had limited options. They couldn't just leave and go home if they didn't like the situation.
In that case, also, we saw the extreme example of threats related to immigration status, so with a workplace raid-- the raid on housing, I should say. But it could also be ongoing, everyday threats to call immigration if a worker complains or wants to leave.
So at the end of the day, all of these factors would be ones to make workers feel like they had no choice but to stay in work in an unexploited situation. And it's not just that these employers are the rare, sort of bad apples, temporary foreign worker programs created the exploitative system. Employers opt into it because many of the features are appealing. They can get a guaranteed workforce. They can have a legal workforce. But the point is that it's a business model that thrives on the vulnerabilities of the workers.
So what is the US legal system doing in practice to address this? What is happening under the TVPA? Well, first we see an underprosecution of forced labor specifically. The criminal system is not fully addressing the problem. We see that only about 5% of all criminal trafficking cases are labor cases. Why is that?
One reason, just briefly, is that labor trafficking is under-reported. So workers who are subject to ongoing threats of deportation may legitimately fear coming forward. They may have had experience with corrupt or ineffective law enforcement home and may not have trust that they would help their situation here.
And, importantly, I'm going to spend a little more time on this one, they may not self-identify as a victim. A lot of labor trafficking cases, particularly with temporary foreign workers, can be a bit factually messy. The workers aren't what we think of as the perfect victim. They're not, like, in chains or locked in their houses all the time. They also may see their situation as something else. You know, maybe they had a bad job, they're underpaid, they're the victim of visa fraud, but they wouldn't call it "trafficking" necessarily.
And, more importantly, there's a mix of willing and unwilling behavior. On the one hand, the worker chose to take the job. They knowingly took on debt. They started coming to the US you know and you know voluntarily. But then the story may change when they get to the US, or turns into something worse, and they may blame themselves for putting themselves in that situation. All of this affects their perceptions, as well as our perceptions, and that of law enforcement as to who and who is not a trafficking victim.
But the important thing is that the TVPA has nuance and it's meant to address this complexity. So both in the provision I've mentioned today as well as others, it allows you to consider what lawyers would call the totality of the circumstances, to holistically see what's going on with the worker situation.
So in this case, it would allow a lawyer to argue, and a judge to conclude, that an employer telling a worker that the employer has to report him to immigration if he leaves is not just a neutral statement of the rules of the program. And to be clear, that's a rule in these programs. But taken together with other mistreatment, it can actually be a coercive threat made against the worker.
So I'm going to close by briefly turning back to that private right of action, I mentioned, which was added to the TVPA in 2003. So I think that civil litigation has worked to fill the gap left by the criminal system. And when I say "civil litigation," I mean, again, workers filing lawsuits directly against their traffickers. What we see is that the vast majority of these private cases, 93%, involve labor trafficking claims specifically.
So why are they good or why does civil litigation have potential in this arena? In short, as compared to criminal cases at least, I think it gives their workers and their advocates more control and better outcomes. So, again, thinking back to the Signal case, they were the ones telling the story at their trial. They were awarded millions of dollars at the end of the day, and they got that unprecedented public apology.
That said, there are downsides I think that are important to acknowledge. Litigation isn't always a perfect solution. It's slow. I mean, we saw that this happened in 2006, and they went to trial almost 10 years later. It's backward-looking meant to remedy past harm.
And there's other work done by both national and international worker-led organizations that complements this. So in the Signal case, you saw that it was a network of advocates who first connected those workers and put them on the path to addressing the harm they experienced, and then gave them a platform to stand up for their rights and the rights of all such workers. Thank you.
GUNISHA KAUR: As Jason mentioned, I am a physician and I'm a human rights researcher based at Weill Cornell Medicine, which is in New York City. My lab really focuses on refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers. And what we do is we take a scientific approach to issues that have typically been mostly observational, not really documented rigorously in the scientific literature, and we collect data, and we put numbers to problems that we are identifying with regard to refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers.
When people think of trafficking, they most often think of sex trafficking. Sometimes people do think of labor trafficking. And what we're finding now, given the rise of violent global conflict and the increasing number of refugees globally, is that trafficking is taking a new scale, a new form, targeting people that may have been saved from this horrible situation, such as children, young girls. And that's what I cover in my research, and that's what I'll briefly discuss today.
The World Health Organization has declared the current refugee migration the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Refugees are often very highly educated, but they're fleeing violence, persecution, and war. Nobody wants to leave their home in these situations. As people who are, let's say, doctors, or lawyers, successful in their careers, who are being forced because of war, or violence, or persecution to leave their home countries.
There are currently 65.3 million displaced people-- I actually think that number is now 68.5 million, 21 million refugees. And what's striking here, as you see in the second graph, is that there are double the number of internally displaced people as compared to refugees. So those are people who are in the same situation as refugees, but they don't cross an international boundary. So they're not protected by international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Something that's also really significant, I think about this graph, the second one, is that there are only 3.2 million asylum seekers. So we hear a lot about asylum seekers, particularly in the current political environment, but that's actually a very small sliver of the total displaced population.
Now this is an extremely vulnerable population. Particularly, women and children become extremely vulnerable in this context, being displaced from their homes, losing access to economic means, housing, family connections, being separated. That makes them extremely vulnerable.
This is a map looking only at refugee origin. And as you can see, there's a pretty diffuse spread of where people are coming from, but there is a concentration. Right now, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia, these three areas alone account for 53% of refugees worldwide. Some of this is chronic, like in Afghanistan, and some of it is extremely acute based on where there happens to be conflict. And so you can expect this to change over the next several years, just based on where conflict is arising.
What we know is that over 50% of refugees are children under the age of 18. So that's a really striking figure. The implications socially, economically, health implications, of over 32.5 million children fleeing their home countries are really astronomical. Many of these individuals are going through the legal process and are getting into that category of technically of being asylum seekers, but many are being trafficked by smugglers.
We know that most of the displaced men, women, and children of the world are going to developing regions. So an overwhelming 86% of displaced people worldwide are actually hosted by developing regions of the world. I think this figure is a really beautiful depiction of the top five countries of origin of refugees, and these numbers are in millions and where they're going. Notice, for the most part, Western Europe, the United States, Canada just fall into that tiny little "other" category. So we hear a lot about refugees, this really politicized asylum seekers, but we're actually hosting a very small number of those individuals.
When people are subjected to forced migration or displacement, as I mentioned, they become extremely vulnerable. They often lose their social status, their financial status, their access to health care in addition to all of the other losses, in addition to the trauma that they faced in their home countries, in addition to whatever baseline diseases they had.
So as a physician, I'm mostly looking at health and the impact of migration and refugee status on health and health care. So let's say somebody comes from a place where, at baseline, they have severe diabetes or kidney disease and they need dialysis.
Then they have some trauma that they've experienced in their home country, superimposed on that forced migration, superimposed on that-- issues of arriving to a country and potentially being separated from their loved ones, having no housing, having no ability to work. And these are things that I see in my practice very frequently.
And you can imagine that the physical and psychological trauma there is extreme. And it's not just extreme in that moment, but that it persists for decades. And, particularly when we're talking about 50% of the population, the displaced population being children, that impact is pretty significant.
It would be impossible to talk about all the different kinds of trafficking, but I wanted to give you one example from places in the world where I work. So my research group, in particular, is looking at violence against women, young girls in refugee camps, particularly with regard to early child marriage. What we and our collaborators have found in this study on the left is that young women and girls are being trafficked at very high rates in refugee camps.
So girls as young as 10, 11, 12 are being married to men who are significantly older, who may already be married. And the families are doing this mostly for their own protection. These situations are very unstable, and violence against these young women and girls is extremely high. And the idea is that if they are married into a home, even if it is not the ideal home, that they might actually be protected from violence.
That's not the way that it ends up playing out. These young girls end up with severe psychological trauma, physical trauma, transmittable diseases that they have no ability to manage. And that's what we're trying to prevent here. Some studies have found that if you provide these young women and girls education related to basic sexual health education-- anatomy, contraception-- that you can actually decrease violence against them, because they are just more knowledgeable and more aware of their own rights.
The photo on the top right is a refugee camp, a Syrian refugee camp. So our work right now is based in Lebanon. And then the bottom photo is a camp in Greece, where we're just starting some work in Lesbos.
Actually, I'm sorry, I'm gonna go back to this for a second. These are [INAUDIBLE] boxes. Does anybody know what [INAUDIBLE] boxes are from the United Nations? So the photo on the top, obviously, you see these tents that are set up by UNHCR, and these are people's homes, and that's where these situations are so unstable and so unsafe. People just can't lock their doors at night.
And there's so much violence in these camps. So the United Nations started these [INAUDIBLE] boxes. And each of these boxes, they're probably half the size of this screen here, and they house an entire family. So that might be for people, and it might be nine people in this box.
These patients that we see, these cases are extremely complicated, as you can imagine. We're just starting to create some documentation around this and some programs. I wish I had time to delve into all of the research projects or even graze the surface of what we're doing. But, hopefully, I've given you a basic introduction of what trafficking of humans might look like today in the current refugee context and how somebody like me in health care might encounter a trafficked individual.
I definitely don't want to give the impression that trafficking only happens internationally, that it's not a problem in the United States. As many of you, I'm sure, know, the Super Bowl is one of the greatest spaces for trafficking. We know that, in the US, trafficked individuals actually have interfaced with health care providers extremely frequently.
So about 90% of trafficked individuals will encounter a health care provider at some point, because they end up having these headaches and somatic pain symptoms and syndromes. So they end up being encountering a health care provider, but people, I think, just don't necessarily acknowledge that trafficking might happen internal to the US. And so most of these cases are missed, and they're passed on. But what my group is trying to do and so many others is increase education, increase data collection and documentation so that, hopefully, we can shift some of what is happening, particularly with regard to children. Thank you.
YULA KAPETANAKOS: Hi, good afternoon, everybody. Thanks to all of you for coming, and thanks to Jason, and the Einaudi Center, and everybody who helped put this panel together. I do work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Combating Wildlife Trafficking branch, but I have to make a quick disclaimer, that I am not here today to represent the viewpoints of Fish and Wildlife Service nor of the US government, which, for anybody who knows me, is perfectly fine with me, because I'm happy to express my own opinions.
So providing a global assessment of wildlife crime is actually quite challenging. Part of that reason is because every country defines wildlife crime in its own way, or it doesn't define it at all. There are international instruments defining other forms of organized crime, such as drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and human trafficking, but there's no equivalent agreement defining wildlife trafficking. So there's really no universally accepted definition of the term.
A lot of work that we do in the CWT branch or the Combating Wildlife Trafficking branch, deals with CITES, which is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It's also called CITES. It's an international agreement that was signed in 1973, which shows that threats to wildlife from illegal and international trade has been recognized for many decades.
There are now over 183 signatory countries to this agreement. And, basically, what it does is that it provides a framework to protect and regulate international trade and about 35,000 different species of animals and plants. The real teeth to this agreement are it's trade sanctions, but it's only as effective as a country's ability to implement.
And wildlife crime is mostly a modern notion. What was historically seen as a conservation issue is now being recognized as a matter of international security. Poaching and the theft of species was overlooked by most governments until armed groups and criminal organizations increasingly became involved in the trade. These criminals are lured to this trade by low risk and big profits.
And it's undeniable that wildlife trafficking has major environmental, societal, and security impacts in developing countries. Wildlife is a natural resource, and the illegal wildlife trade is siphoning this living capital away from the environment and from communities and into the pockets of criminals.
People in poverty are financially incentivized to engage in illegal trade, which due to the depletion of natural resources, eventually spirals them down into deeper poverty. One elephant can net $21,000 in ivory, of which little goes to an impoverished poacher. A herd of healthy elephants can generate substantially more tourism and income for an entire community.
Wildlife trafficking poses a serious threat, not only to individual species, but, in the case of timber trafficking, to entire ecosystems. Sadly, the fastest deforestation rate is happening in the most biodiverse regions of the world. And there are global implications. Rampant deforestation is a significant cause of carbon emissions, and approximately 15% of greenhouse gases emissions stem from forest loss.
In Southeast Asia, central Africa, and South America, more than 50% of timber is illegally harvested. China is the largest importer of timber, yet it lacks laws that prohibit the import of illegally harvested wood. This is also true for most countries. Illegally harvested wood from one country can be introduced as a legitimate product in another.
And China sells billions of dollars worth of wood products to the United States every year, and it's estimated that about 10% of timber are brought into the US is illegal. Weak laws governing wildlife crime is the international norm. Low prosecution rates and penalties result in small fines or minimal prison time. The largest seizure of wildlife occurred in Singapore in 2014.
And so when we typically think of wildlife, we think of elephants and all the other animal species, but we also include timber and other plants in the definition of wildlife. So in this case, in Singapore, in 2014, 3,000 tons of illegally harvested Malagasy rosewood that was worth $50 million was confiscated.
But the courts ruled that because the wood was in transit to China and not to Singapore, it was technically not imported. And so the charges were dropped and the 30,000 logs were returned back to the company, and illegal deforestation in Madagascar continues at an alarming rate.
The smuggling of large quantities of wildlife reveal a high degree of coordination, typical of well-funded organized crime groups. And the volume of wildlife confiscated from one seizure can be staggering. Does anybody know what the most trafficked mammal in the world is, if you're not a biologist?
YULA KAPETANAKOS: Yes, exactly. So for those of you who don't know, pangolins are small, and they're evolutionary interesting evolutionarily interesting animals because their bodies are actually coded in scales. And these scales are used in Asia to treat a wide range of ailments. And seizures of pangolins and their parts often weigh in the tons. A large confiscation recently included 11 tons just of pangolin scales, and more than 20,000 penguins were killed to produce the scales of that volume.
Apart from large organized crime groups, this global trade is also fueled by isolated individual operators profiting off smaller transactions. And often, these small operators are harder to detect by law enforcement. So what tends to happen is law enforcement, particularly just for media attention, will go after these large kingpins. But, in reality, there's many smaller operations taking place.
The treatment of trafficked animals is also atrocious. Animals suffered greatly at the hands of traffickers along every point of the supply chain. Parrots are stuffed into soda bottles or entire families of gorilla are killed so poachers can capture one infant.
A large percentage of these animals die before they're even shipped out of the country, and it's estimated that between 60% to 90% of African gray parrots die after capture. So for every 10 wild gray parrots that make it into somebody's home, six will die before they ever leave Africa. And this is also another problem because the animals or the volume of animals that we see in confiscations is not actually indicative of the number of animals that are truly poached from the wild.
And traffickers are continuously coming up with new and innovative ways to pass by customs. We're doing some work in Angola right now to help build capacity to fight wildlife trafficking. And one of the wildlife crime unit members told us that there are these very large operations, underground operations, spearheaded by Chinese nationals living in Angola, where they process rhino horn, and they cut it up into pieces and embed it into chocolate, and then ship it out through customs that way.
We've probably all heard that rhino is in high demand in Asia for its health benefits, particularly as a cure for cancer, although most of these claims are spurious. And traditional medicine is not always traditional. Dealers will fabricate new remedies to keep the demand going.
People in Asia now drink rhino horn concoctions to cure hangovers, and wealthy Vietnamese consume rhino horn to flaunt their status and wealth. Vietnam has now surpassed China as the leading consumer country of rhino horn. with prices reaching $65,000 per kilo, it is one of the most expensive animal products available. There's real money in this business.
Corruption is also a big player in wildlife trafficking, and it enables all aspects of the illegal trade from poaching to the final sale. So from rangers who make a meager $200 a month to high-ranking government officials. And in fact, Gabon's president last month fired his vice president and his forest minister after they were implicated in the disappearance of hundreds of containers of illegal timber. And I have no idea how you make vanish hundreds of containers of illegal timber.
In addition, online platforms have made it easier than ever to advertise and to sell wildlife products and live animals. In a report that was produced by Traffic, which is an NGO that specializes in collecting data on wildlife trafficking, identified a huge trade of reptiles being sold on Facebook in the Philippines. Numerous posts offered thousands of animals for the pet trade, ranging from crocodiles to critically endangered tortoises. 50% of the species that were being advertised on Facebook were protected species. And this really shows just how we really need to tighten up our controls on social media and online vendors.
We're not exactly sure how much wildlife trade is worth in total. As with all illicit economies, estimating the value of trade in wildlife is extremely difficult, simply just because of its clandestine nature. And estimates range between $5 to $20 billion. But if you also add in illegal fishing and logging, that number bumps up to between $7 to $200 billion, involving thousands of different species. So the total trade in illicit activities up there, roughly equal around over $1 trillion.
An ironic aspect of this illicit trade is that it's often only halted by extinction. When I was a kid and I was growing up, I had a real passion for African wildlife. And at that time, Northern White Rhinos, which is the species that you see here, numbered in the hundreds. It had already been depleted to that level. But, today, only two exist, and they're both female.
In our lifetime, we will witness the extinction of many more species. Their cousins, the southern white rhino, is an example of how we can succeed, however. The species was believed to be extinct in the late 19th century until a small population of around 100 individuals were identified in South Africa. And after a century of protection and management, there are over 20,000 individuals of this species.
It's the only one of the five rhino species that is not critically endangered. So it shows that sound management and conservation practices can work, but it does come at a high expense, both financially and in terms of other resources.
We also know that we need strong policies and laws. Numerous countries have instituted domestic ivory ban, which is great news, including China, and poaching pressure for elephants and rhinos, which still exists, but it's slightly eased up.
We also need policies that address human livelihoods and corruption. And wildlife crime must be seen as a serious crime, and penalties must be strengthened and enforced. It's really important to note a lot of the work that we do comes through a lot of coordination with many governments and US government agencies, along with private industry, NGOs, and so on. So this is not a battle that one government can fight alone, especially governments that are struggling financially.
We need to find the tools that work, and we need to include multiple sectors to work together from governments, to law enforcement, to private industry, to biologists, and social scientists. And we need better solutions. And I really look forward to hearing from everybody who's here today on how we can fight this trade together. Thank you.
KENNETH ROBERTS: OK. I'm Kenneth Rogers from the government department in Latin American Studies at Cornell. And I also want to thank Jason and the Einaudi Center for organizing this panel as part of the Alumni Weekend. I think it's rare that you get people together that are working on different kinds of smugglings to think about a larger problem. Usually, people sort of talk to their own little niche.
And I think what you get a sense of in the panel today are the wide range of areas where you get smuggling activities that are having severe consequences. And so I think it's great that the Einaudi Center is encouraging us to take a look at these problems. I wish I could tell you that I was going to give you a more upbeat ending to our panel, but this is not a pretty story about drug smuggling and its impact on the Americas. So I'm just going to talk a little bit about the nature of the problem, but in particular why drug smuggling is associated with such extraordinarily high levels of human violence in the Western hemisphere.
In terms of the scope of the problem, this data, these figures are a little bit older now. And it's, of course, by definition, these are illicit economic activities. It's hard to get real good data on it. So they're somewhat different estimates. But just in terms of the scope and the scale of the problem, what you see is that, in terms of the dollar amounts, that the smuggling of drugs is a massive economic activity, and it tends to dwarf other kinds of smuggling in the international arena.
A lot of this smuggling is concentrated in the Western hemisphere between Latin America and in the United States in North America. So, certainly, it's a global problem. But what you can see is that, in particular with the trafficking of cocaine, which is shown here on the next slide, this is predominantly a problem that is very much a Western hemisphere problem, although the cocaine is ultimately exported to other parts of the world as well.
But, virtually, all of the world's cocaine comes from the coca plants that grows in the Andean region of South America. But then, it gets exported elsewhere, in particular north to the United States. And so the US is the primary global market for the smuggling of cocaine.
And many times when we tried to study this problem within Latin America, we talk about the smuggling activities as a type of vicious circle. And so I want to say a few words about why that is in Latin America, why does this tend to be such a vicious circle.
I think it tends to start with what you might think of as weak states, in other words national governments with very weak institutions, oftentimes struggling to control remote territories and the people who live in those territories, where you have either mountainous or jungle terrain-- but, ultimately, national political institutions that do not fully control territory and population, meaning that you can get illicit kinds of economic activities taking place in those regions.
These are also countries, of course, with extreme economic inequalities. Typically, in Latin America, in most of the region, 40% or 50% of the population is engaged in economic activities that we call "informal economic activities." So these are not economic activities that are legally registered, and licensed, and taxed, and regulated. Instead, their economic activities that are some sort of informal type.
And, in essence, what you get-- drug smuggling tends to be the illicit side of the informal economy, right? A lot of the informal economy is not illicit. People that are selling clothing, or shoes, and food and other kinds of things on the streets, but, in essence, the drug smuggling is the illicit side of the informal economy.
And, clearly, in a context where there is a lack of viable economic activities, for many people, there are a lot of people who see the drug trade as an arena of economic opportunity where they can try to find employment, albeit employment that is highly risky, as I'll talk about.
Another dimension of this has to do with the geographic proximity to the lucrative US consumer market for drugs. As I said before, the US is the primary market for the smuggling going on in the region. We're talking about $88 billion a year in cocaine in the United States, $55 billion a year in heroin. Not all of that coming from Latin America, some of it does.
And it's also important to keep in mind, this is a two-way trade. The drugs are flowing north from South America through the Caribbean Basin and Mexico, and then on up into the United States. At the same time, the weapons are flowing south, right? So the drug cartels that control the drug trafficking are very heavily armed. Much of that weaponry does come from the United States in gun clubs, in gun shops in the United States, and other dealers.
Some of it is left, weapons left over from the Central American civil wars in the 1980s and 1990s. But there are a lot of weapons in circulation, but a lot of that does come from the United States. And so this is a two-way trade, where the drugs are flowing north, the weapons are flowing south.
Also important to keep in mind, this is an illicit market. At all levels, there is a criminalization of production, transport, and consumption of the drugs. So what this means is that the control of the supply market is done by transnational criminal enterprises. In other words, the narco trafficking cocktails, and then the affiliated local gangs that work with the transnational cartels. All right, so every step of the way, these are criminal activities. So it's very highly lucrative economic activities that are criminalized, and consequently controlled by the cartels.
Ultimately, then, the narco trafficking activities tend to feed off and to reinforce the original state weakness that I talked about through violence, through the corruption of police and military, and government officials, that ultimately this tends to be the vicious circle, where it comes back to reinforce the original problems.
In terms of understanding the economics of the drug trade, it's important to recognize these are massive illicit economic resources. In Venezuela, a country we think of as, at least until recently, a relatively wealthy oil exporting country, the current value of the cocaine trade out of Venezuela is estimated at $39 billion a year. That's greater than the sum of Venezuela's oil exports.
In Mexico, drug trafficking is estimated $20 to $30 billion a year, comparable to Mexico's revenues from oil exports and from family remittances. In Columbia, estimated at $10 billion a year. And as you can see, four times the revenue's earned from coffee exports, a better known legal export from Colombia.
By comparison, US economic aid to all of Latin America is about $1.2 billion a year. In other words, the economic aid we give Latin America is a drop in a bucket in comparison to the magnitude of the illicit resources that are generated by the drug trade.
Oftentimes you'll find that the resources available to the drug cartels swamp those that are available to national governments. The head of the Medellin cartel, some years ago, famously, offered to pay off Colombia's national debts if the government would agree not to extradite him to the United States. So these are international cartels that control resources that swamp what the national governments have.
In terms of the breakdown that these illicit revenues, one kilo of cocaine has a retail value in the United States of about $60,000. It's worth more in Europe, much more in Australia, which has a very high level of consumption of cocaine. Now that's $60,000. The producers on the ground, the small farmers producing the coca leaf, get 0.2%. So they get $137 out of the 60,000. A very small fraction is given to the coca farmers.
A somewhat larger fraction, 3.2%, or a little over $2,000, is captured by the clandestine drug labs to process coca leaf into coca paste, and then the coca base from which you make cocaine. So there's a whole there's a chemical process involved in turning the coca leaf into the cocaine powder that is the narcotic. And so the processing of that, you have clandestine labs in the field in Colombia and sometimes in Peru, where they turn the coca leaf into cocaine.
But then, as you can see, the vast majority of the profits are found in the trafficking side, right? It's not the production. It's not the processing. But rather it's the trafficking that gets the drugs from the Andes, through the Caribbean Basin or Central America, through Mexico, and on up to the United States, all right? So 96% of the profits are captured by the trafficking cartels.
All right, as this says, though the vast majority of the profits are earned through trafficking, it's important to keep in mind that the coca leaf production is still relatively lucrative. If you're an Andean peasant trying to get by, it's more profitable to produce coca leaf than most of the other alternatives in the region. So coca growers can produce three to six crops per year.
In Colombia, it's estimated that 100,000 peasant families make a living from coca production. And they're earning approximately $1,200 a month, which is about three times the per capita income within Colombia. So even though the coca farmers get a very, very small fraction of the profits, it's still relatively profitable compared to other things they could be doing on their land.
So this is just a picture of a basic coca plant. As I said, virtually all the Coca comes from Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. Traditionally, it's from Bolivia and Peru. I should point out, coca is a traditional products in the Andean region. It has traditionally been chewed, kind of like a chewing tobacco.
But it was chewed especially at high elevations. It has medicinal properties as a leaf, and it was widely thought to help with hunger, hunger pangs, and also with altitude sickness, and it had other kinds of medicinal properties. So it is still legally produced and chewed.
Although, there is a lot of conflict around that. Bolivia actually markets a very nice coca leaf tea, Mate de Coca. So it's an herbal tea that is legally grown and produced. And so the leaf itself is basically an herb. Like many other leaves, it is only the chemical process, which starts with this, that turns it into something that is a very dangerous narcotic.
So these are the processing labs in the field that take the coca leaves and turn them into the cocaine that gets sold onto the streets. And then this is a shipment, like a confiscation of kilos of coca that were being shipped out. So these are what the kilos look like.
A few final words in terms of why the drug trade is so violent. The violence associated with the drug trade is very heavily concentrated along the key travel routes and the transportation hubs. So, in particular, it's around the major highways, and the port facilities, and the airstrips. And this tends to reflect very intense competition between rival cartels, and gangs, and sometimes the local police or military units that are fighting for control over the supply routes and the profits that they generate. So there's a lot of competition between the rival actors that want to have a hand in this.
And also, it's important to keep in mind the so-called war on drugs has largely been fought on the supply side, right? They're efforts to try to eradicate the crops and interdict the shipments. So there's been an extensive militarization of local police forces and the deployment of military units to combat the cartels. In Mexico alone, 230 lives have been lost to the drug trade over the past decade.
This is just a picture. This is the Sinaloa Cartel, or an armed group from the Sinaloa Cartel. The sign you see behind them is a sign that's against one of the rival gangs. And so this is the Sinaloa Cartel threatening the Zetas, what's going to happen to them if they continue competing for the control over these supply routes.
And this picture just shows you the different colors are where the different international cartels are active for the control of the drug smuggling through Mexico. And this is the picture, the aerial fumigation, the efforts to try to destroy the cocaine crops in the field.
OK, just to close, then, in terms of the violence associated with this, in terms of homicide rates around the world, you see that the Americas have the highest rate of homicides in the world. But this is very heavily concentrated in the countries that are on that supply route between the Andes and the United States. So El Salvador has the highest rate of homicide in the world. Honduras is second. Venezuela is third. Jamaica's fourth. Belize, Columbia, Guatemala, and Mexico also rank very high.
So these are all countries that are on that supply route between the Andes and the United States. Of the 12 most dangerous cities in the world, they are all located in Mexico, Venezuela, and Brazil. 44 of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world are located in Latin America and the Caribbean. The other six are in the US and South Africa.
All right, so these are the most dangerous countries in the world outside of war zones, in terms of the taking of human life. And it's very, very heavily associated with the drug trade. All right, so let me just close.
There's a famous quote from the former Mexican strongman, Porfirio Diaz, who said, "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States." This was said a long time ago before the rise of the drug trade. But, ultimately, in some ways, this is a microcosm of what the entire region is facing.
This part of Latin America is paying very, very severe consequences of the price they pay for being geographically located between the Amazon region, where this very traditional product is grown, and the United States, which consumes that product in a very different form, and the magnitude of the revenues that that generates. So I should close there. Thank you.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thank you, everybody, for coming in. Thank you to our class. That was a fantastic panel, if a little bit depressing for such a beautiful day and for your return to campus, but an important topic and a really substantive engagement topic. So thank you very much.
I just came for lunch with Stephen Hadley, who's the [INAUDIBLE] at 3 o'clock, and he's a national security advisor, a former national security advisor. And so my whole lunch was about the threat from foreign relations and particularly the context with China. So, all in all, it's been a really terrible day.
I have a question. I know we're almost at the end here, so why don't I go right out to the audience and just see if there are a couple of comments or questions. Yes?
AUDIENCE: About the cocaine trade, is there any connection with Coca-Cola and the drug lords and drug trafficking. Is this commercialization supporting this area at the same time the other things that you're talking about are happening.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thank you. Why don't we collect a few questions, then we'll take them each. Yes. And if you wanted to say your name and year, that'd be great.
AUDIENCE: I apologize. I came in from the outside. My name is Angela Neill. I actually attended APEC back in 2011 on behalf of the United States, just as [INAUDIBLE] representative. My uncle is running a very large construction firm in Japan. I have even been tweeting like mad about different issues involving human trafficking since it has directly impacted my family here in the United States, meaning my brother, and sister are dead, and my life is constantly compromised for my identity.
And I have been involved in the past with animal welfare movement, dropping things at Senate and House for bills against endangered species and trafficking of animals. What I'm wondering is, has anybody ever looked at this issue, not just as illegal drug trafficking or wildlife trafficking, but looking at it as a sort of grooming.
I also tweet on electronic warfare and strategic minerals extraction that China and Lockheed Martin have been doing. So these are larger organizations that have a lot of interest in all of these countries that are mentioned to gain access to environmental resources to destroying the environment, in fact, and mine what they can for satellites and weapons.
WENDY WOLFORD: We can take one more question, I think. I'll ask mine really quickly. The [INAUDIBLE] all suggest, and the UN suggests, that trafficking is increasing and has increased quite significantly in the last 10 to 15, even last 50 years. And I'm wondering, Ken, in your presentation, you gave some reasons why that might be, for reasons why it may be located particularly in Latin America.
But I wonder if you all might have a set of hypotheses for why, over the past 50, 60 years, we would have seen such increases. Is it improved data and surveillance of trafficking? Is it inequalities, that the demand and supply are in different places? Is it increasingly [INAUDIBLE], and increasing migration of people so that you have this increased movement is goods? Is it the criminalization of things that once were legal?
So poaching, that used to be allowed for family consumption. Now, it's no longer. So I guess that was one question. We have not very much time. But why don't we have just quickly, each of the panelists speak to the questions. Thanks.
KENNETH ROBERTS: I'm not aware of any particular contacts between Coca Cola and the smuggling activities that I was talking about. But I do think, in coming round to the larger question about, what is behind this increase [INAUDIBLE], I think, in a lot of ways, this is the dark side of globalization.
There's an increased density of economic, but not just economic exchanges, all kinds of exchanges that are part of globalization, in the sense there is new access to markets, where certain types of things are valued, that are considered illicit.
And so, there-- the efforts to try to supply those illicit markets, as several has talked about, the kinds of revenues that are generated by supplying illicit markets are enormous, and especially in developing countries, where incomes tend to be lower and economic opportunities fewer, there are plenty of people that are willing to run the risks of trying to supply those markets potentially in enormous gain for themselves, and enormous consequences for everybody involved.
GUNISHA KAUR: I think the question as you posed, and then a few points that you brought up, it's probably all of those things combined. One of the things that I thought was really interesting is how the interplay of human trafficking, and drug trafficking, animal wildlife trafficking, may be sanitizing in a negative way and overlaid on top of each other.
So it was interesting to see your slide of where the drug trafficking is the worst or where violence is the worst. As I was looking at that slide, I was noticing that a vast majority of the asylum evaluations that I do are from El Salvador, Honduras, and these areas, where drug trafficking is a problem and therefore violence is a problem-- and when I do these asylum evaluations, people are almost always seeking asylum because they were persecuted by some drug cartel. And so maybe part of the problem here of why we see this increase might be that each of these things are making the others worse.
BRIANA BELTRAN: Thank you. And just to add very briefly to that, I think, in terms of increase, we see that also in what I talked about, the legal programs that can often turn into a sort of trafficking situation. So these guest worker programs that exist in the US, of the H2A program, which is the program that brings in workers on these temporary agricultural visas. Something like 95% of those workers come from Mexico.
Many come from Guatemala as well. And the program is not limited in terms of visas that are given annually. And it's grown almost exponentially in the past few years, now upwards, I think of 200,000 workers come in annually. And employers are pushing to expand into other industries.
Also, just in terms of whether more things are now illegal, there's more data. I mentioned the TVPA, which introduced the annual report that the State Department does. That's something that came into play in the year 2,000. And also, I didn't mention that the UN was also developing a tracking protocol in the late 1990s that fed into the TVPA here in the US. So I do think that there's a lot more knowledge and reporting transparency about that, just awareness, which is good, but also maybe that in lies the problem, at least from the public perception.
YULA KAPETANAKOS: And I would definitely say that those issues are true as well for wildlife trafficking, except there's one distinction is that I think the biggest driving force for trafficking in animals has been an increase in the middle class in many parts of the world that have traditionally consumed high volumes of wildlife to begin with. So China is, by far, the largest importer of wildlife.
And as China has extended its reach into other continents-- so Latin America and Africa-- you pretty much can't go anywhere in Africa anymore without seeing the presence of Chinese industry, whether it's port building, or dam building, or mining or whatever. And so as Chinese nationals are living on these other continents, it provides a very easy avenue for them to find locals to poach wildlife so that it can be transported back to each other.
Also, I would say for wildlife trafficking, it's also a component of social media. So the availability of being able to sell these animals and their products online has really exploded the market.
WENDY WOLFORD: Thank you. Thinking about the reasons why it is on the rise or appears to be on the rise is in the context of a very depressing story and a very difficult one, perhaps points to some of the ways in which international institutions or programs to address inequality, how there might be ways to reduce trafficking. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you to the panel.
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A Reunion 2019 roundtable highlighting the challenges associated with the trafficking of humans, animals, and drugs around the world, sponsored by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. Featuring: Briana Beltran, Cornell Law School; Yula Kapetanakos PhD '14, US Fish & Wildlife Service; Gunisha Kaur, Weill Cornell Medicine; Kenneth Roberts, Richard J. Schwartz Professor of Government; and Wendy Wolford, Vice Provost of International Affairs and Director of the Einaudi Center.