A Dope-y Policy


A new General Accounting Office report on U.S.-sponsored antidrug activities in Colombia and Bolivia admits that these efforts have failed. During 1987 and '88, federal agencies spent about $75 million in these countries—collectively the source of 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States.

The GAO report concludes: "U.S.-supported crop control, enforcement, and interdiction efforts in Colombia and Bolivia have not produced major reductions in coca and marijuana production and trafficking, and it is questionable whether major reductions will be achieved in the near future." Since 1985, says the report, the amount of land in Colombia devoted to growing marijuana has increased by 50 percent, and the amount growing coca has doubled. An estimated 70,000 families in Bolivia grow coca, up from 15,000 in 1978. "The availability and purity of cocaine in the United States has steadily increased since 1981, while at the same time, the wholesale and retail prices have steadily declined."

The report also notes the unsuccessful war against drugs has had nonmonetary costs. Drug traffickers have responded to interdiction efforts by bribing soldiers in the Colombian army and Bolivian anti-drug units, murdering journalists and government officials who oppose them, and forming alliances with antigovernment guerrillas.

Aside from some rather meaningless rhetorical recommendations—the United States should "request the government of Colombia to use all of its resources, including its military force, more effectively in the fight against drug production and trafficking"—the report offers few concrete suggestions. Indeed, most of its proposals aim to improve information about what happens to U.S. funds after they are given to authorities in these countries.