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Cocaine in Latin America: Why the USA is Losing the War

And that other great, almost forgotten conflict that America is involved in, `the war on drugs` how are we doing?

Unfortunately, no better than the "war on terror" in Iraq. An article in `The Independent` outlines the reasons why the US is losing its war on cocaine:

The immensely costly "war on drugs" in Latin America is slowly collapsing like a Zeppelin with a puncture. The long-forecast failure for strategies which involve police and military in forcibly suppressing narcotics - first decreed by President Richard Nixon decades ago - is now pitifully evident in Bolivia, one of the poorest countries of the Western hemisphere.

The US sponsored eradication of coco plants -- "zero coca" -- through pesticide spraying has been one of the more senseless aspects of war on drugs in South America. The coca leaf is used by Indians for chewing and for the ubiquitous coca tea, which every hotel in La Paz, Bolivia serves. The coca plant is one of the few crops Indians can grow on their subsistence plots often in very high altitudes.

However, now that there has been a change in leadership in the Andean countries, the mood is changing. Evo Morales, Bolivian President and a former union head of the coca growers is calling it "coca, si (yes); cocaine no", a policy that is anathema to the US administration and its 'war on drugs' strategy. Hugo Chavez, the radical Venezuela President announced a trade agreement with Bolivia earlier in March, "to finance the construction of coca processing plants in Bolivia and to import Bolivian coca products to Venezuela."

However Colombia, under US ally President Alvaro Uribe which has received $5.4 billon under the so-called `Plan Colombia` from Washington for drug control, ( more US foreign aid than any other country except Israel and Egypt) coca eradication remains the centerpiece of US strategy. "Crop control is the most cost-effective means of cutting supply," according to the 2007 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, issued by the U.S. State Department (even though up to 90% of the cocaine consumed in the US apparently still comes from Colombia`s growers via Mexico).

The US czar on drugs, John Walters a former "law 'n order" conservative, appointed in December 2001, has deemphasized and closed programs for treatment and rehabilitation, and decided that further criminalization and interdiction was the way to go. But as demand and availability has remained high, the price of cocaine has fallen, and the purity of the substance has increased. Despite some well-publized seizures, "America's supply-side efforts to reduce cocaine use by stopping it from getting to the US have failed", or so it would seem.

This war appears to be just as endless and counterproductive as "the war on terror" in Iraq and with the same lack of good options. Perhaps consideration should be given now to the legalization or decriminalization of cocaine, nasty and unpleasant as it is. Isn't that Ron Paul's solution too?

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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