Some Say Drug War Being Lost

Some Say Drug War Being Lost
Posted by FoM on January 13, 2000 at 16:51:51 PT
By The Associated Press
Source: JSOnline
With victory in the war against drugs still not in sight, the Clinton administration is preparing for another escalation that includes a $1.6 billion package to assist Colombia's counternarcotics efforts.On Friday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was traveling to the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena, the site of an antidrug summit a decade earlier where President Bush said the United States was ready to join forces with Colombia, Bolivia and Peru to battle drugs.
Virtually no one is happy with what has occurred on the drug front since that summit.Of all the figures relating to the drug war, perhaps none is more discouraging than the 140 percent increase in coca leaf production in Colombia - 81,400 tons in 1998 compared with 33,900 tons in 1989. Estimates last year indicated a continuing explosion despite record levels of eradication. The cocaine glut means a decline in prices - 55 percent since 1981.As for opium poppy, the raw material for heroin, production in Colombia was zero in 1989. By last year, it had skyrocketed to 61 tons, much of it earmarked for U.S. markets, where illegal drug use remains high among teen-agers and young adults.A government report last year indicated 10 percent of U.S. teen-agers use illegal drugs - down from 1997 but still nearly double 1992's level.On Friday, Albright planned to confer with Colombian President Andres Pastrana about the administration's two-year package for Colombia. Among other components, the package will provide training for special counternarcotics battalions and 30 Blackhawk and 33 Huey helicopters for counterdrug activities. Funds also will be used for radar, aircraft and airfield upgrades, and improved intelligence gathering.When Bush met in February 1990 with the presidents of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, he hailed the session as ``having forged an unprecedented alliance against the drug trade.''Bush promised economic aid to help the three countries wage the drug battle and to persuade their farmers to switch to legal crops. A joint communque called for tougher enforcement of drug laws, better exchanges of information and increased restrictions on the movement of firearms.Critics of U.S. policy abound.``The drug war is futile,'' says Tim Lynch of the libertarian Cato Institute. ``Progress is not being made and we need to look at alternatives, including legalization.''Lynch says U.S. territory is simply too vast to prevent illicit drugs from entering the country, particularly in view of the increasingly high-tech devices used by drug kingpins. To confuse U.S. law enforcement, drug cartels sometimes resort to fake transactions, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Use of encryption devices also impairs antidrug efforts.John Walsh of Drug Strategies, a private group, says $26 billion has been spent over the past 20 years on interdiction and international supply control programs.``By key measures with which we can gauge drug availability, they are all going in the wrong direction,'' Walsh said, arguing that the answer is to halt interdiction and eradication efforts and instead focus on treatment of drug users.``We know chapter and verse that treatment works to reduce drug use and reduce crime related to drug use,'' he said. The problem, he says, is that treatment programs are underfunded.Taking aim at the planned increase in military assistance for Colombia counternarcotics efforts, the liberal Washington Office on Latin America says the proposal threatens to implicate the United States in Colombia's brutal civil war.But the plan appears to have substantial congressional support, especially among Republican lawmakers. The proposal is in line with a $1.6 billion program outlined last fall by three GOP senators: Paul Coverdell of Georgia, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Charles Grassley of Iowa.Coverdell said the administration proposal ``is good news for Colombia and good news for our nation's ability to stem the flow of illegal drugs across our borders.''WASHINGTON Associated PressLast Updated: Jan. 13, 2000  Copyright 2000, Milwaukee Journal SentinelRelated Articles:U.S. Asks $1.6 Billion for Colombian Drug War - 1/11/2000 To Unveil Aid Package For Colombia - 1/10/2000 to Give Colombia $1 Billion to Fight Drugs - 1/07/2000 
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