Colombia, the Germ of a Notion


In a Christian Science Monitor op-ed piece, Mark L. Schneider of the International Crisis Group examines the results of America's crackdown on cocaine cultivation in Colombia:

When Plan Colombia (the multibillion dollar US assistance program targeted at curbing drug smuggling and supporting Colombia against armed guerrillas) started, coca was cultivated in 12 of Colombia's 34 provinces. Today it is grown in 23 of those provinces.

In 2006, after five years of Plan Colombia, four years of the regional Andean Counterdrug Initiative, and after spending $5.5 billion, some 1,000 metric tons of cocaine were produced between Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. That's about the same amount that was produced in 2002 when President Álvaro Uribe took office.

The head of the White House Office of Narcotics and Drug Control Program, John Walters, admitted at a press conference in Haiti recently that last year that cocaine production had risen to 1,400 metric tons in 2007—a whopping 40 percent hike….

In 2002, just under 9 percent of the US population from 12 to 25 years of age admitted to using cocaine the previous year. In 2006, the same percentage said they snorted cocaine.

U.S. officials nevertheless hold up Colombia as "a good model" for Afghanistan to emulate, which helps explain why opium suppression there is going as well as it is.

[Thanks to Paul Rako for the tip.]