Astute observers of the nation’s drug problem will notice an intentional mistake on this month’s cover: cocaine doesn’t grow in fields. Those green leaves being dried are from the coca plant. They will be gathered up by narcotraffickers, and processed in jungle laboratories into a fine, white powder, which will then be shipped to the United States to be sold as cocaine.

When we learned veteran journalist Brian Bird was going to be in Colombia and Bolivia, we asked him to trace cocaine to its roots (literally). In Bolivia, he commandeered a Land Rover for trips into the lush but dangerous countryside. “At one point, we were stopped by the ‘leopards,’ machine-gun toting, U.S.-backed anticocaine police,” says Bird. “Since we were gringos, we were suspects.”

Brian convinced the leopards he was clean, then went on to interview Christians who grow coca. That they were not hard to find says something about the extent—to say nothing of the irony—of this situation. While American parents worry about their children falling prey to drugs, these South American parents need the coca leaf’s profits to feed and clothe their children.

Brian’s report begins on page 40, but later this year you can see more of his journalistic skill. While in Colombia he spent several all-nighters on the streets of Bogotá doing research for a screenplay. Check your local listings in December for the World Vision television special, “Where on Earth Are the Children?”

As you will learn in our report, the tentacles of the illegal drug industry have much of the planet in its grip.

LYN CRYDERMAN, Senior Associate Editor

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