Bush’s Cocaine Problem

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Mother Jones had a little fun with cocaine in March. Or, what I meant to say was, Mother Jones had a little fun reporting on cocaine in our March/April issue. Jokes aside, we contended that the ambitious and expensive plan enacted in 2000 to eradicate Colombian coca by aerially spraying crops has not significantly reduced cocaine production or the availability of the drug in the United States. In fact, we indicated that as much as 40 percent of the sprayed crops are not coca at all, but rather rainforest or food crops.

Today’s American Prospect online augments MoJo‘s admittedly jaunty foray into the white stuff. Based on the personal stories of peasants in Colombia’s cocafied southern districts (well worth a read) and a report released—albeit belatedly—by the State Department itself, the article reveals that even the government’s own numbers demonstrate that Plan Colombia hasn’t made a dent in the drug trade. And that peasants will continue growing coca—planes be damned—until they are provided with another way to earn money. And they need more, rather than less, money every time their food crops are destroyed.

Let’s hear an Amen for Sandro Calvani, director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Bogotá, who observes, “You cannot change a dysfunctional social-economic situation by force alone … The only way to make elimination sustainable is to convince people to make a new life plan. The people must be at the center of the change.”

But Calvani’s common sense is Bush’s anathema. In fact, the Bush administration is increasingly spending its massive Colombian aid package on attempts to corral the cocaine-funded FARC guerrillas, rather than on aid to poor coca farmers or more effective eradication efforts. TAP reports that, while FARC has indeed retreated, the conservative Colombian government is forming ever-tighter alliances with the paramilitary death squads originally formed to fight the guerillas:

Also funded by cocaine and considered terrorists by the State Department, paramilitary forces have fast become some of the country’s largest drug traffickers. In other words, U.S. taxpayer money meant to fight the drug trade is funding allies who are, in part, fueling it.

But because the rest of Latin America can’t stand Bush, he’s stuck with Colombia’s corrupt, right-wing, human-rights abusing government. Wow, it feels like déjà-vu all over again! Get ready: We may have to attack Colombia 20 years from now.

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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