Sunday, April 16, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC we find that despite much of the happy rhetoric about success in the drug war, the amount of coca under cultivation is higher than was thought to be the case (Coca-growing spreads in Colombia):

Coca production in Colombia is more widespread than previously registered, the US government says.

A survey found efforts to kill the crop – the source for cocaine – by spraying fields with chemicals had succeeded.

But the US government, expanding the survey area, found an extra 26% of land under cultivation. It also found production was more dispersed.

Correspondents say this is a setback for the US. It has spent $4bn fighting Colombia’s cocaine trade since 2000.

So, really, despite all the proclamations of success in the last year, there really has been no improvement to the situation.

Of course, that’s not the way the ONDCP sees it:

However the head of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, John Walters, insisted it was working.


“Where there was no spraying cultivation was up, where spraying is occurring, cultivation is shrinking,” Mr Walters said.

Well, no kidding. That’s what happens: eradication in one area leads to the migration of cultivation. The point of the policy isn’t just to kill coca plants, the alleged goal is to kill enough plants to actually affect the ability to produce and sell cocaine. If the cultivation migrates away from eradication so as to allow for sustained coca production it really doesn’t matter how many hectares you eradicate in the original spray zone.

The response by Walters is typical insofar as it is the same type of response that has been registered by drug warriors in Washington for literally decades. They get fixated on a specific metric (usually tons seized, hectares eradication or arrests made) and then proclaim victory.

However, the relevant numbers are things like street price and basic demand. As I have noted before, price has been on a downward trend during the last decade plus, during which we have spent more money than ever for eradication.

And while there was an uptick in price this past year, it still puts us about where we were when we started the current cycle of policies.

It takes a remarkable amount of blind faith in the drug war to say that it has been anything other than a failure, and yet we spend billions and billions on it annually and never debate any alternatives to the current approach.

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2 Responses to “Drug War Cycle Continues”

  1. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Mexico Decriminalizes Personal Drug Possession (and a Passing Mention of the Limbaugh Story) Says:

    [...] es. We have not substantially reduced supply of cocaine, nor of coca cultivation (indeed, as I noted recently, even where we allegedly had been having success in terms of hectares under cultivation in [...]

  2. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » More Tales from the Drug War Says:

    [...] ator Questions White House Data on Coca Growth in Colombia. The story deals with an issue I first blogged about in mid-April, the fact that despite initial positive reports on coca eradication in Colo [...]

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