The Making of Cocaine in the Jungle
All of the illicit cocaine entering the US and Europe comes from South America where it is processed in makeshift jungle laboratories. These are located close to growing areas because the leaves are hard to transport far, owing to their weight (it takes 200–300 lb of leaves to make a kilo of cocaine) and the inability to conceal them easily. In contrast to the common laboratories with clean buildings, a lot of expensive glassware and doctors with white lab coats on, most cocaine labs look a lot different. They are equipped with a few plastic buckets, some acid, some alkali, and one or two cooks (“cocineros”), the underground chemists “all they need to make cocaine is a couple buckets and a sheet”. These labs are only in operation for a short period of time (2 weeks or less) two or three times a year during the harvest.