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The Drug Wars

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A Billion Dollars for Anti-narco Programs—and No Central Tracking

June 5th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexico marijuana seizure

The Department of State, which received more $1 billion for international counter-narcotics programs last year, doesn’t have a central database to track its anti-drug programs.

Most of State’s $1 billion supports programs in Mexico, Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is responsible for programs that ran the gamut from eradication of illegal crops, drug interdiction and reducing drug demand.

Instead of a centralized inventory of contracts, State separates its contract data between information from the Narcotics Affairs Sections at overseas posts and the government-wide Federal Procurement Data System. The INL has begun the process of developing its own database of counter-narcotics contracts.

In 2010, the Government Accountability Office asked State to develop performance measures and targets in its Afghan program and Mérida Initiative. According to State, the INL is currently developing guidelines that would require posts to develop a performance management plan, define each project’s performance measures and establish periodic monitoring. But the INL does not link performance of individual contracts to its overall program performance assessments. Currently, posts are responsible for setting contract requirements and conducting contract oversight.

The disjointed reporting may have created a focus too narrow. The massive coca eradication program in Colombia, “Plan Colombia,” caused coca farmers to migrate to desolate jungle regions on the Pacific coast. Small towns were overrun by drug cultivators, processors, and traffickers. State began a new program, “Consolidation,” in 2007 for intensive military and development aid to 14 sites in underdeveloped regions that saw surges in drug migrants after eradication efforts elsewhere.

In addition, coca eradication has reduced the number of hectares of coca being planted, but has not cut into cocaine production substantially. In 1999, the UN Office on Drug and Crime measured 160,000 hectares of coca planted in Colombia, which produced 680 tons of cocaine. In 2007, after millions of hectares of coca had been eliminated, cocaine production dropped only slightly, to 600 tons.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has attempted to alleviate the economic hardship caused by coca eradication with alternative livelihood programs in the Andean region and Afghanistan to reduce the appeal of drug cultivation for farmers. But reports from the Washington Office on Latin America indicate that minimal funding for the economic assistance programs has not created a sufficient incentive to deter farmers from growing coca. In Colombia, coca growers earn $10–12 a day, double the minimum wage.

In 2010, $309 million went to Colombia, $281 million to Afghanistan, $249 million to Mexico, $69 million to Peru and $39 million to Bolivia for State’s counter-narcotics efforts.

Laurel Adams writes for iWatch News, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, from where this article is reprinted.


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