Pubdate: Sat, 17 Mar 2007
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Sacramento Bee
Note: Does not publish letters from outside its circulation area.
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Why Finance More Drug War Failures?

Two days after President Bush promised $3.7 billion more in aid to 
fight cocaine trafficking in Colombia, Sacramento police and federal 
Drug Enforcement Administration agents announced the largest crack 
cocaine bust in the city's history. Police seized seven pounds of 
crack and two pounds of pure cocaine Tuesday. The drugs' estimated 
street value was a modest $375,000.

The juxtaposition of the two events, the president's promise of yet 
more aid for drug fighting in Colombia and the record cocaine seizure 
in Sacramento, is instructive. Over the last seven years, U.S. 
taxpayers have spent $4.7 billion to finance Plan Colombia, under 
which the Colombian government sprayed millions of acres with 
herbicides to eradicate coca fields and launched military offensives 
against guerrillas. It has had minimal impact on the availability or 
price of cocaine in the United States.

An estimated 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in this county still 
originates in Colombia. According to statistics compiled by the White 
House Office on Drug Control Policy, street prices for cocaine fell 
from $200 a gram in 2003 to below $140 in October 2006. At the same 
time, purity of the drug rose from 60 percent to 70 percent. 
Obviously, the cocaine supply remains robust.

Critics within Colombia point out that U.S.-financed eradication 
efforts have produced thousands of refugees and that the spraying 
kills not just coca but legal crops such as cassava, plantains and 
sugar cane, leaving small farmers with nothing. Money promised for 
economic development for alternatives to the lucrative drug trade 
never materialized. Meanwhile, coca growing has moved to new areas 
within Colombia, including the country's fragile national parks, and 
other countries in the region, destabilizing them in the process.

While foolishly pledging to continue funding these failed 
interdiction policies, the president did acknowledge during his visit 
that "The United States has an obligation to reduce the demand for 
drugs." He is right about that.

U.S. efforts should be focused in our own communities, on, in his 
words, "an obligation to reduce the demand." Don't waste billions 
more in Colombia. Fight drug traffickers on the U.S. streets. Use the 
money for local police and prosecutors, for drug treatment and 
education, for economic development, housing, job training and 
after-school programs.

Ultimately, cutting demand and giving those mired in poverty a real 
chance to make a decent living outside the drug trade are the best 
ways to win a war on drugs, in the United States or in Colombia. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake