Bolivians Pay Dearly for U.S. War on Drugs

By Tina Hodges and Kathryn Ledebur
Thursday, November 14, 2002

Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada meets today with President Bush in Washington, D.C. The perennial U.S. determination to fight drugs by ripping up coca plants will certainly drive the meeting. As representatives of NGOs who monitor drug policy in Bolivia, we hope that the presidents face up to some uncomfortable facts.

U.S. international drug-control policy is ineffective. Over the last decade, despite spending more than $25 billion on drug-control programs overseas, more illicit drugs are available in the United States, and at cheaper prices, than ever before. Plan Colombia was so profoundly unsuccessful that coca cultivation in the Andean region increased 21 percent during the plan's first year.

Yet U.S. officials seem to hold out hope for the supply-side strategy of combating drugs despite the admonitions of market economics and studies commissioned by their very own agencies.

Searching for a model of success, the U.S. officials cling to the Bolivian experience. True enough, Bolivians eradicated 70 percent of their coca over the last few years. Yet that coca was quickly replaced by new crops in Colombia and Peru and replanted crops in Bolivia, leading to an overall increase in production.

Resources Available through the
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

If you are interested in more detailed information on various issues, the Washington Office on Latin America's (WOLA) offers a number of well researched documents on their web site at

A new briefing series called the
Drug War Monitor is initiated with a 24-page

document, "Coca and Conflict in the Chapare," authored by Kathryn Ledebur.

A link is also available on the WOLA web site to a 40-page study by Coletta A. Youngers and Susan C. Peacock, "Peru's Coordinadora Nacional de

Derechos Humanos:  A Case Study of Coalition Building."

The report describes one of the most successful country-based human rights coalitions in Latin America, an umbrella organization encompassing over 60 of Peru's leading human rights groups.

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