The drug war

The drug war

By M. L. Simon

The drug war

Last week we looked a bit at the Drug War in Europe. This week I’d like to look at the Drug War in the Americas, North and South.

Remarkable things are happening in South America. Jorge Batlle, the president of Uruguay, has called for the legalization of drugs. He announced his plan in front of a group of U.S. reporters last November in Panama at a Latin American presidents’ summit. Of course, in the U.S. of America, his statement was not reported at all. There is a worldwide clipping service where you can find out about how the war is really going daily. They report all sides. It’s free. No need to miss any of the news.

In Columbia, the news is not particularly good. We are in a real shooting war. And it’s not going well. After six or eight months of Plan Colombia and about 140,000 acres sprayed with Roundup, government estimates of coca acreage in production in Colombia has had to be doubled or quadrupled. Let me tell you why I think this is happening, based on piecing together various reports on Colombian happenings.

Roundup is a very useful weed killer because when applied carefully in a controlled agricultural setting, it is not too toxic and dissipates quickly. In the U.S., agricultural planes fly at the lowest possible altitude to localize the area covered by the weed killer. That stuff costs money, and you don’t want to waste a drop. It eats into profits. In Colombia, on the other hand, pilots have to spray from 3,000 feet or higher because they get shot at. At 3,000 feet, what are the odds of localizing the spray? Slim and none; and why should they economize anyway? They are burning Uncle Sugar’s $1,000 bills and getting paid well for the privilege.

So the spray, which is relatively safe when localized, is killing legitimate crops, killing livestock, killing the rain forest and sickening children. This, of course, does not leave the locals well disposed to the U.S.A. In addition, they are now poorer than ever and have sick children to tend. What to do? Well as soon as the Roundup dissipates (about two weeks), plant more cocoa. In a few months—instant cash. In addition, those who can’t wait a few weeks move deeper into the jungle and add more coca acreage to cultivation.

The end result is that the more effective and widespread the spraying, the more peasants we get in opposition to the U.S. and the more coca acreage we get under cultivation at no additional charge.

Did I mention that the charge for our little Colombia adventure this year is $1.3 billion? With a $700 million kicker for the rest of the Andes countries added by Bush Two. And likely more to come. Well, Vietnam started small. But no doubt, our military industrial complex has great hopes for the Andes now that the Cold War is over, which may have something to do with why you are not getting the news.

For more drug news from South America, go to:

And for news on E.J., see:

M.L. Simon is an industrial controls designer and Libertarian activist.

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