Source: Fox News
Contact:  Thu, 06 Aug 1998


AMSTERDAM - The Dutch health ministry Thursday rejected allegations by the
U.S. drugs policy adviser, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, that prisons in the
Netherlands were bursting at the seams because of its liberal drugs policy.

Speaking to Reuters in Los Angeles on Wednesday, McCaffrey said that Dutch
tolerance of soft drugs such as marijuana had contributed to an explosion
in the jail population and a sharp rise in the number of drug users.

"The Dutch have consistently followed a harm-reduction policy...In their
country, drug-abuse rates among their youngsters have gone way up under
this policy and their prison population has gone way up,'' McCaffrey said.

The United States' preventive approach, in contrast, was a roaring success,
the White House adviser added.

"Our model has resulted in lowering the rates of drug abuse in America by
50 percent. Cocaine use is down by 70 percent; drug-related murders are
down by a third,'' he said.

At the Dutch health ministry, McCaffrey's latest statistics were greeted
with as much disbelief as his extravagant statement last month that the
Dutch murder rate dwarfed that of the United States.

The Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics produced figures then that put the
Dutch murder rate at less than a quarter of the U.S. level. On Thursday,
the health ministry produced another set of data to contradict McCaffrey.

According to the Dutch figures, hastily produced by a health ministry
spokesman, there were roughly 160 heroin addicts for every 100,000
inhabitants in the Netherlands.

In the United States, by comparison, there were around 430 addicts per
100,000 people, the spokesman said.

Dutch prison statistics tell a similar story. According to the ministry, 73
people out of every 100,000 are serving a jail sentence in the Netherlands,
far below the 645 recorded in the United States. Cannabis consumption among
18-year-olds is also much lower in the Netherlands, according to the health

"We know Mr McCaffrey's views. We know he is against our coffee shops. We
know he is against our heroin program,'' the health ministry spokesman
said, referring to two of the most controversial aspects of Dutch drugs
policy. So-called coffee shops that peddle marijuana with impunity and a
pilot scheme to supply heroin to people who are deemed to be incurable
addicts have raised eyebrows in the United States.

Robert Housman, chief policy adviser to McCaffrey, said he accepted the
Dutch prison population was small compared with the U.S, but noted that it
had doubled in recent years.

He also said there was no doubt the Netherlands was a major production and
distribution center for Ecstasy and amphetamines.

"But the irony is we have a tremendously good cooperation with the Dutch,''
he told Reuters by telephone from Washington.

"They are doing a tremendous job in terms of interdiction in the Caribbean,
in terms of stopping the manufacture of Ecstasy and amphetamines. There is
a high degree of coordination.''

Housman minimized the differences between the Netherlands and the United
States. The real battle, he said, was against the traffickers and

"There is a lot of congruence and there are also differences. We have our
approach and the Dutch have theirs. But what is happening is that there are
forces at work to legalize drugs and they are trying to bring these
wonderfully allied governments into conflict,'' he said.

McCaffrey visited the Netherlands last month as part of a European
fact-finding tour, and described his trip as "useful.'' The Dutch said it
had also yielded some progress.

"Before he came he called our policy a 'total disaster'. By the time he had
left he had scaled it down to a 'small disaster,''' the health ministry
spokesman said.

Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved

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