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 Measure to Reduce Drug Smuggling into U.S. by 80% in Three Years Passes Congress


September-October 1998

President Clinton approved $690 million in additional funds for anti-drug efforts in Latin America when he signed the omnibus spending bill (P.L. 105-277), which included the Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act (S. 2341). The act calls for an 80% reduction in the amount of illicit drugs smuggled into the U.S. by the end of 2001. S. 2341 was sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH), and a house companion bill (H.R. 4300) was sponsored by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL) (Douglas Farah, "US Drug Interdiction Effort Receives $690 Million Boost," Washington Post, October 24, 1998).

Congress appropriated an additional $690 million to a projected three-year authorization of $5 billion, for drug interdiction along the Pacific coast from Colombia to Southern California. Two million dollars in addition were authorized but not appropriated. Congress authorized $2.7 billion when it passed S. 2341. The funds would largely be spent on the purchase and maintenance of aircraft, including six UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the Colombian police, eight helicopters for Mexico, and six surveillance airplanes for the U.S. Customs Service. The measure also includes $100 million for alternative crop development (Anthony Boadle, "U.S. Congress Approves $2.7 Billion for Drug War," Los Angeles Times, October 21, 1998).

Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who has set a goal of a 10% reduction in drug smuggling over three years in the National Drug Control Strategy, called the target of 80% "completely unrealistic." On the day the House measure passed, McCaffrey testified that S. 2341 would be too expensive and would represent "micro-management of drug tactics based on a shallow analysis of the problem and our available tools." ("War on Drugs," USA Today, September 17, 1998, p. 9A; Cassandra Burrell, "Drug-policy chief faults $2.6 billion interdiction bill passed by House," Philadelphia Inquirer, September 17, 1998, p. A7; "Drug-Fighting Funds Added Over Policy Chief's Objections," Washington Post, September 17, 1998, p. A5).

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) said that the Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act "would dramatically increase the flow of dollars and equipment to Latin American militaries, ostensibly for fighting drugs and authorizes an enormous sum of money to continue to be spent on a policy that has had absolutely no successes heretofore. . .By offering military equipment and training to Latin American police, and to militaries with questionable human rights records, the bill undermines the fundamental U.S. foreign policy goals of supporting democracy and human rights" (WOLA, "`Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act' Would Further Militarize Andean Region Drug War," Legislative Alert, September 14, 1998).

According to WOLA, U.S. funding for anti-drug efforts in Latin America has increased more than 150% over the last ten years. Yet, by U.S. State Department estimates, coca cultivation is 11.7% higher, and opium production has doubled. Over the last decade, total drug production in Colombia has risen an estimated 260%. Coca production in Colombia has more than tripled, making Colombia the world's leading coca producer. Twenty years ago almost no coca was grown in Colombia. Only four years ago, no heroin was produced in Colombia; it now ranks third in the world in poppy cultivation and fourth in heroin production.

Congressman Bill McCollum - 2266 Rayburn Building, Washington D.C. 20515, Tel: (202) 225-2176.

Senator Mike DeWine - 140 Russell Building, Washington D.C. 20510, Tel: (202) 224-2315.

Washington Office on Latin America - 1630 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009, Tel: (202) 797-2171, Fax: (202) 797-2172.