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.