9:25pm – Wednesday, June 3 on ABC2
In this very personal documentary, former cocaine addict Alex James, bassist of Britpop band Blur, travels to Colombia at the invitation of the Colombian president to see first-hand what the cocaine industry is doing to the country and its people.
Colombia now accounts for 62 percent of the world’s cocaine production, a trade the UN estimates to be worth USD70 billion (AUD94.8 billion) worldwide.
Cocaine has overtaken coffee as Colombia’s top export, producing over 610 tonnes a year.
Now clean, Alex has turned his talents to farming and making cheese, so as a farmer as well as a former addict, this visit is both interesting and poignant for him.
Once in Colombia, with near-unrestricted access, Alex meets the farmers, the sellers and the enforcers. He visits an anti-narcotics base where the Colombian military are overseeing the chemical spraying of hundreds of hectares of coca plantation and workers are pulling up the plants by hand – a job fraught with danger since the plantations are often landmined and the workers shot.
He visits makeshift labs where the coca leaves are made into base cocaine, and he spends time with a dealer and a hit man who tell him their business – mostly drug related – is good.
Shortly after, it transpires, the hit man is himself murdered.
Alex admits he spent a million pounds (AUD2.02 million) on cocaine and alcohol during the height of Blur’s fame, a fact that is put into sharp perspective when he finds out that a gram of cocaine sells on the Colombian streets for just one pound (AUD2.02) and is the cause of 17,000 murders every year in Colombia.