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Cocaine Capital of the World: Stacey Dooley Investigates, BBC Three | reviews, news & interviews

Cocaine Capital of the World: Stacey Dooley Investigates, BBC Three

Cocaine Capital of the World: Stacey Dooley Investigates, BBC Three

Light travel programme looking at cocaine production at its Peruvian source

Ms Dooley rambles cheerily through fields of Peruvian charlie horticulture

Stacey Dooley is a chirpy media personality from Luton who first created TV ripples in 2008 on a BBC Three show called Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts. She made an impression then as a high street fashion fan who bridled at the Third World labour involved in much cheap garment production.

So far, so Wikipedia - I’d never heard of her and was nonplussed when she popped up like a ditsy, toothy holiday rep fronting a travelogue programme investigating Peru’s ascension to the forefront of global cocaine production. This hour-long show was the first of three Stacey Dooley Investigates specials about the international narcotics industry - the other two will concern the yaba (methamphetamine) epidemic in Thailand and drug trafficking out of the Ukraine.

The multi-billion-dollar attempts to destroy the cocaine industry are a monstrous waste of time and, indeed, lives

The initial problem with Dooley was – how to put this? – why didn’t they put someone with a little more knowledge about the subject in charge? Half the programme was spent running us through loads of old hat about how cocaine is made, from coca leaf to the final hydrochloride powder, with Dooley in full wide-eyed, Blue Peter-on-the-road mode. As an interviewer, she delivered prize pearls such as “they try to avoid police detection – it is their aim” from the police about those who run jungle processing labs – like, duh! - and a sequence wherein she wandered round an Amazonian jungle airstrip with her trolley-suitcase asking, “Are you winding me up? Is this the main terminal?” made her look a complete airhead.

The truth, however, was that this wasn’t a programme for those with any interest in narcotics and drug culture. All it revealed in that department was the way Peru has replaced Colombia as a production hub, especially due to a refined new strain of coca leaf that can be grown in regions other than coca’s traditional mountain terrain. No, once the viewer had adjusted to the fact this was light rather than cutting-edge documentary-making, it was gratifying to watch as the scales fell from Dooley’s eyes and she realised that the farmers she met - decent men and women with families - subsist on coca. When government-backed militarised units destroy their crops, these people are thrown into poverty.

She went to a thriving town called Cuchillo Cocha, blossoming on coca farming, then visited another village where the crops had been annihilated. At the latter, the government representative whose job it is to make sure ex-coca farming communities are offered alternative sources of income was roundly abused by a woman who had been left for six months with no way of earning money. Dooley then walked around a corner and found a massive horde of coca leaves awaiting processing. By the end, her fluffy suburban style didn't grate quite so much and her relatively guileless observations made her eventually rather likeable, especially once she admitted that “eradication will never work.”

The programme was also to be complimented on its lack of the usual doomy atmospherics around the issue of drugs. The only conclusion Dooley could draw - and she did - was that as long as there’s demand, the mechanisms to prohibit cocaine production appear flawed. What remained unsaid is that the ongoing, decades-long, multi-billion-dollar attempts to destroy the cocaine industry from its roots up are a monstrous waste of time and, indeed, lives.

Overleaf: watch Cocaine Capital of the World: Stacey Dooley Investigates

It was gratifying to watch as the scales fell from Dooley’s eyes and she realised that farmers - decent men and women with families - subsist on coca

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Comments

Stacey Dooley is fantastic at these programs she does because she isnt a journalist by education she is a ordinary person just like the viewer. We go on her journey and learn what she learns. If you had done your research and looked back on her previous SD investigates you would fully understand why BBC has created the investigates serious for her.

the show was not really well researched, just a bit of sensationalist journalism. And she never ever mentioned the other side of the coin which is consumption from the rich word. She sort of blames peruvian economic for the problem as she says a the end that as long as there is poor people in Peru, there would be cocaine production. Should her not say, as long as there is demand from the rich world?

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