Alternative Policies

The consequences of the US and Colombia fumigation programs are having, and will continue to have, a large and adverse effect on the ecology and people of Colombia, as well as helping to breed instability and conflict in the surrounding countries. As in the cases of Peru and Bolivar (both used by the White House as proof of the effectiveness the eradication policy), the causes of such high levels of coca cultivation haven’t been addressed and cultivation has only moved geographically, as it did from Peru to Colombia in the early nineties for example. Last year evidence suggested that despite the huge eradication program and the militarization of coca producing areas, cultivation of the illicit crop has returned to Peru. As Winifred Tate a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, concluded: "[Fumigation is a] completely ineffective way of reducing drug production and trafficking. Drug production in the Andes has remained constant. The [anti-drugs] programs have just moved it into other areas."

There are many and cheaper alternatives that the US government is failing to take into account. One major criticism of the current policy is that it focuses more on the supply of cocaine rather than the demand. A study by the RAND institute in Santa Monica, California, indicates that every $1 dollar spent on rehabilitation and treatment gives a return of $7 by decreasing the costs of criminal justice, lost productivity and health care. Experts also regularly call for a greater emphasis on education of young people - something that, despite the rhetoric, the US government has still failed to invest in sufficiently. These alternatives alone are surely more productive than the $30 billion plus, spent over the last two decades, on diminishing the supply of cocaine - a policy that anyone with any knowledge of European or US society can see has clearly not worked.