Hurrah! A bipartisan group of nine influential experts on Latin American
affairs is about to issue a provocative "memorandum" to the next U.S.
president suggesting that the $18.4 billion-a-year U.S. war on drugs is
failing and should undergo "a full-scale reassessment."

The letter tells the U.S. president-elect -- by now commonly known as
"Whoever-it-may-be" -- that it is time to shift U.S. resources from
interdiction abroad to demand-reduction at home. The current policy is
leading us nowhere, it says, in an unusually blunt assessment of the latest
drug figures.

"In its current form and with massive resources that emphasize enforcement
and interdiction over education and treatment, the drug war remains a
mission that has not succeeded," says the letter, whose signatories include
several former ambassadors and some likely appointees in either a George W.
Bush or Al Gore administration.

While casual drug use is down in the United States, hard-core users -- the
drug cartels' biggest market -- remain constant at 5 million addicts, the
letter says.

"The strategy of enforcement and interdiction ... seeks to reduce
availability and raise the price of cocaine," it says. "In spite of this,
cocaine is readily available, and, if anything, its street price is down.

"Colombia's Medellin and Cali cartels were dismembered, only to be replaced
by numerous smaller cartels," it continues. "Colombia is wracked by
violence, effectively split into areas controlled by ... bands (that) are
wealthier than ever before.

"Lately, the violence has spilled over into Colombia's nearest neighbors,
Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador. There is a growing concern among these
nations and others that U.S. drug policy may have the unintended
consequence of spurring regionwide violence."

What should be done? The group, which includes Richard Feinberg, a former
Clinton administration national security adviser on Latin American affairs;
George Fauriol, a program director at the Washington Center for Strategic
and International Studies, whom some insiders mention as a possible
appointee if Bush gets to the White House, makes the following recommendations:

Invest far greater resources in education, prevention and treatment of
hard-core users in the United States. Right now, the bulk of the resources
are run by the U.S. Justice and Treasury departments.

Rather than continuing with the controversial U.S. annual certification of
countries that cooperate in the war on drugs, work with the Organization of
American States to make its Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism "robust and

Regarding the $1.3 billion U.S. anti-drug military aid to Colombia, "keep
our promises to Colombia, but consider modifying the emphasis of our
assistance ..., providing more resources for alternative economic
development in Colombia and in the other nations where coca is grown."

The letter, assembled by University of Miami North-South Center director
Ambler Moss, comes only days after Mexican President Vicente Fox called on
the United States to put its own house in order regarding drugs.

Fortunately, the political winds are blowing in that direction. The war on
drugs has not been won, and the next U.S. president-elect, Mr.
"Whoever-it-may-be," is beginning to hear the same message from all corners.
Distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
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MAP posted-by: GD

Newshawk: Sledhead
Pubdate: Mon, 11 Dec 2000
Source: Holland Sentinel (MI)
Copyright: 2000 The Holland Sentinel
Address: 54 W. Eighth St., Holland, MI 49423
Fax: (616)392-1717
Author: Andres Oppenheimer, The Miami Herald