Pubdate: Fri, 06 Aug 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle
Author: Mark J. Trentalange


The Chronicle Aug. 3 article, "U.S. drug czar seeks re-evaluation of
aid to Colombia amid violence," delineating Gen. Barry McCaffrey's
"emergency" call for an extra $1 billion for interference in
Colombia's internal affairs, shows exactly why a former general should
not be in charge of our country's drug problem. The war on drugs is an
expensive failure. How many more billions are we willing to spend?

Drug use in the United States has remained relatively stable for 25
years. The so-called reduction of cocaine use merely reflects a trend
toward other drugs, such as methamphetamines and heroin and has
nothing to do with any action by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

In fact, McCaffrey inadvertently admitted as much by quoting CIA
estimates that cocaine and opium production have increased in Colombia
- -- this during the period of our greatest expenditure!

Not only has the eradication program been ineffective and costly both
in dollars and lives of U.S. agents and servicemen, but, in addition,
Colombia now produces 60 percent of the heroin shipped into this country.

McCaffrey's citing a lack of government presence in southern Colombia
as logic for intrusion into Colombia's internal affairs is also
flawed. If the rebels somehow succeed in overthrowing the Colombian
government, they would cease to need drug money to finance their fight
and would be in the same position as the current government: probably
seeking lucrative American anti-drug money.

The drug problem will never be solved with policing, military or
interdiction methods. Prohibition didn't work in the 1920s, and it is
not working now.

We should take that $1 billion and pay Colombian farmers to grow coca
and poppies for the DEA, collect their harvest and then destroy it.
This would be cheaper and more effective than what we are doing now.

The Colombian government would be happy to dole out our money, the
farmers would be happy to receive it and the Colombian people would
not be caught between left-wing rebels and right-wing paramilitary
units. Best of all, the DEA would be seen to be "doing something"
about the drug problem.

Let's stay out of Colombia's civil war.

Mark J. Trentalange, 
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