Anti-Cocaine Efforts Allow Heroin to Thrive 

Anti-Cocaine Efforts Allow Heroin to Thrive 
Posted by FoM on March 10, 2001 at 08:27:37 PT
By Will Weissert
Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Washington's $1.3 billion war on Colombian cocaine has had an unexpected consequence: scaled back efforts to stop the flourishing heroin trade.Strikes against poppy plantations in the Andes have been on hold since December because airplanes and helicopters used in aerial eradication missions were reassigned to the U.S.-financed push against coca crops.
U.S. officials are calling the suspension temporary. But the halt is frustrating Colombian police and angering some U.S. lawmakers concerned about increasing heroin production.Colombia is the world's leading cocaine producer and now exports more heroin than Thailand and Pakistan. The country supplies 70 percent of an expanding U.S. heroin market, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says.At a hearing in Washington last week, Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) raised questions about the poppy suspension. He warned that "more American youngsters caught up in the current heroin crisis here at home will die needlessly for lack of an effective U.S. heroin strategy directed at Colombia."DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall said successful anti-heroin efforts in Asia and years of battling cocaine in Colombia had pushed Colombian traffickers into a booming U.S. heroin market.Colombia still produces about 100 times as much cocaine as heroin. But U.S. heroin use has doubled in the last five years, while casual cocaine use has dropped 70 percent in the last decade, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy reports.Concern about heroin could dampen the enthusiasm over what U.S. officials are calling a successful start to coca eradication under Washington's $1.3 billion aid package. The United States is providing troop training and combat helicopters to escort crop dusters over southern coca plantations often guarded by armed rebels.By early February, about 62,000 acres--almost a fifth of Colombia's estimated coca crop--had been sprayed, U.S. officials said.Gen. Gustavo Socha, head of Colombia's anti-narcotics police force, complained the aggressive attack is undercutting the war on heroin. Whereas his forces wiped out a record 22,700 acres of opium plants last year, Socha said he'll be lucky to kill more than 15,000 acres this year--a drop of more than a third.Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)Author: Will WeissertPublished: March 10, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Sun-Times Co.Address: 401 N. Wabash, Chicago IL 60611Contact: letters suntimes.comWebsite: Articles - Colombia
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