U.S. Targets Poppy Fields in Colombia's Drug War!

U.S. Targets Poppy Fields in Colombia's Drug War!
Posted by FoM on March 05, 1999 at 06:11:43 PT

  VEGA LARGA, Colombia -- Standing in his small poppy field on a steep mountain slope, Adan Rodriguez watched in dismay as U.S.-supplied airplanes plunged through the narrow gorge, spraying his illegal crop with a commercial weed killer. Helicopters buzzed nearby, door gunners at the ready. 
  "People came and gave me the seeds and showed me how to grow it," said the farmer, 56, wiping sweat from his brow as heavily armed counter-narcotics police walked through the field. "Then we sell the opium gum to people we don't know. But if they destroy these crops we will have nothing to live on."   Such aerial assaults on illicit crops are not new in Colombia. But usually the target is coca, the leafy plant used to produce cocaine.   Now, as heroin production surges in this Andean nation, the United States and Colombia are redirecting some of their eradication efforts toward poppies, the raw material for opium and heroin.   Citing a dramatic shift in the U.S. heroin market, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported that "Colombia-based trafficking groups have captured a significant share of the largest U.S. heroin markets."   The report added that 75 percent of the heroin seized in the United States came from Colombia, which until five years ago produced no heroin.   Donnie Marshall, the DEA's acting deputy director, said in congressional testimony that the Colombians had expanded their share of the U.S. market by slashing the price of heroin and greatly increasing the product's purity.   The combination of low price and high quality has helped drive the estimated number of heroin users in the United States from 600,000 to 810,000 in the past three years, according to Barry McCaffrey, the Clinton administration's drug policy director.   Because of the trend, the Clinton administration is no longer focusing exclusively on coca-leaf cultivation and cocaine production and is shifting resources to fighting heroin at the source. The United States gives Colombia $289 million in annual anti-drug aid.   The stepped-up spraying campaign has been felt most keenly by the estimated 35,000 peasants who make their living growing the opium or processing it.   Many, like Rodriguez, said they grew the crop because it yielded much more money than traditional crops such as coffee and cocoa, and because the drug traffickers provided the seed, fertilizer and a guaranteed market.
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Comment #1 posted by Willis Butler, MD on February 19, 2000 at 15:27:53 PT:
Heroin in CVolombia
I wonder how reliable the assertion is, that 75% of the heroin currently used in the US is from Colombia. After all, the factoid comes from General Mac and the DEA, and US military strategy in Latin America depends heavily for acceptance on invoking hysteria about drug "abuse." If cocaine, or cocaine alone, doesn't produce the desired level of panic and funding, or if it is deemed strategically desirable to shift attention from China and SE Asia, the historic source of heroin, to Latin America, or if anti-insurgency tactical needs require shifting attention away from one geographical area in Colombia to another,.......? The claim may be true, but I want a better source of information.
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