Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jan 1999
Date: 01/26/1999
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Author: Laurie Freeman
Page: A18

In the Jan. 12 editorial "Battles in the Drug War," The Post erred in
stating that the decline in coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia is
due in part to a policy of aerial spraying. Neither Peru nor Bolivia
uses aerial spraying as a means to eradicate illicit coca crops. The
only country in the hemisphere that does is Colombia -- and there,
U.S. anti-drug policy has been a spectacular failure.

Colombia is by far the largest recipient of U.S. antidrug funding,
totaling almost $1 billion to date. Yet over the past decade, drug
production in Colombia has risen an estimated 260 percent, and coca
production has more than tripled, making Colombia the world's leading
producer. Only five years ago, no heroin was produced in Colombia. The
country now ranks third in the world in poppy cultivation and fourth
in heroin production.

U.S. antidrug policy in Latin America is fundamentally wrong. The
greatest successes occur in countries where the United States invests
the least. Those countries unlucky enough to receive the brunt of U.S.
attention and investment experience dramatic setbacks. The "successes"
of Peru and Bolivia should serve as a wake-up call to U.S. officials
who advocate spending more money and spraying more chemicals in the
fight against drugs.

The Post is correct, however, in arguing that the American approach to
the drug war needs to be reviewed. There is no silver bullet. Reducing
drug abuse in the United States requires long-term solutions,
including promoting respect for human rights and democracy and
strengthening civilian law enforcement and judicial institutions in
source countries.

LAURIE FREEMAN, The writer is program assistant for the Andes in the
Washington Office on Latin America.