Bolivia's drug policy unfairly criticized by U.S. (Sept. 14, 2016)
The U.S. has released its annual list of major drug producing or trafficking countries. Latin America and the Caribbean countries have significant presence -- including Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. Bolivs and Venezuela, along with Burma, are emphasized as "as countries that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements."
The list remains the same as last year's, and it's not clear that Bolivia and Venezuela deserve such singling out on the basis of their contribution to the U.S. illicit drug market, notes InSight Crime.
But the yearly exercise in condemning Bolivia is "futile." And ignores the promise of its approach to reducing illicit drug production, while respecting the rights and needs of poor farmers, as well as traditional use of coca as a non-narcotic stimulant, argues a New York Times editorial. In fact, the Bolivian strategy shows far more promise than the Washington promoted forced eradication of coca crops model in place in Colombia, for example, according to the piece.
UNODC figures show Bolivian coca production leveled off last year at 20,200 hectares, the lowest area under production since the body started monitoring in the country. "The Morales administration is now very close to meeting its goal of limiting coca cultivation for traditional and other legal uses to 20,000 hectares (about 77 square miles), an amount that would guarantee subsistence income for farmers and help to stem production for the illicit market," explained Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network (AIN) and WOLA's Coletta Youngers in July. The results should encourage international support for the Bolivian strategy they argue.
That stabilization is in marked contrast to the increase in neighboring countries such as Peru and Colombia. The latter has had more than a 40 percent increase over the past year, they emphasize, a view echoed in the NYT editorial.
At first glance, the comparison with Colombia's production seems somewhat unfair. The Colombian coca boom is not a marker of the failure of the war on drugs approach. Aerial eradication was suspended last year in Colombia but not replaced by intensive manual eradication. Additionally farmers may be turning to coca in order to benefit from crop substitution measures included in the peace deal with the FARC. A Wilson Center analysis by Juan Carlos Garzón and Julián Wilches includes the hypothesis that communities under FARC influence believe planting coca will give them leverage to receive government benefits. Other factors behind the Colombian increase include a drop in the price of gold, shifting labor from illegal mining to coca.
Yet, the Wlison Center report also concludes that the Colombian coca boom it points to the inadequacy of crop eradication-centric drug control policy -- arguing that "a greater, more effective government presence to implement sustainable rural development and offer viable, lawful alternatives for the communities participating in this illegal economy."
A fly in the Bolivian success story ointment: Coca leaf cultivation is not necessarily the metric to focus on, argues a Bloomberg piece from last year. While Bolivian coca production fell, the cocaine production doubled between 2008 and 2015, and the country is an important trafficking hub according to Mac Margolis.
Indeed, according to the U.S. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) coca cultivation did not fall in Bolivia last year, but rather increased by 4.28, accompanied by a 24.32 percent surge in cocaine production. But, AIN criticizes the ONDCP's opaque methodology for calculating these results, and notes that the numbers tend to be retroactively modified without explanation.
On a positive note, the U.S. memorandum naming major drug transit or producing countries does emphasize "a growing international consensus that counternarcotics programs must be designed and implemented with the aim of improving the health and safety of individuals while preventing and reducing violence and other harmful consequences to communities," observes InSight.
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Humberto de la Calle, the government's lead negotiator in the peace talks, warned citizens that if they reject the pact it could take another decade to start new discussions, reports the BBC.
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The U.N. Security Council approved the deployment of a political mission to monitor a cease-fire between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC yesterday, reports the Associated Press.
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Brazil's government launched a plan to auction off oil, power rights and infrastructure concessions, an attempt to strengthen the recession hit economy, reports Reuters. The administration is seeking to woo private investors to infrastructure projects with simpler rules that will permit private companies to either build new projects or improve existing infrastructure, then operate them for a certain period, reports the Wall Street Journal.
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