Current Policy

The U.S. government's first priority is to stop the flow of cocaine, which still poses the most immediate threat to potential drug users. Because of rising heroin use promoted by the new, cheaper Latin American producers, the United States must also focus on opium-producing countries. The United States goal is to limit the cultivation of drug crops to the amount necessary for international medical applications. Since all the cocaine that enters the United States comes from coca plantations in Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia, the U.S. government has active drug-control programs in the three countries. During the 1990s, the U.S. has assisted Bolivia and Peru in their efforts to reduce coca cultivation. While these efforts have dramatically reduced production, drug traffickers increased coca production in Colombia. This resulted in increased political corruption and political destabilization. In 2000, the U.S. approved a $1.3 billion emergency assistance package to Colombia to help the Colombian government. The aid package contains money for police and military training, administration of justice programs, and economic development programs. The U.S. has also increased its military assistance to Latin America to help fight narcotics trafficking, yet many critics question the effectiveness of this approach. Others have expressed concern that direct U.S. military involvement may be requested by Colombia, which could lead to problems similar to those encountered by the U.S. in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s.

Opium control is more difficult than coca suppression, since most of the world's opium poppy grows in countries where the United States has minimal diplomatic influence (Myanmar, Afghanistan, Laos, Iran, etc.). There also appears to be increasingly important opium poppy cultivation in China, Vietnam, and the Central Asian countries. Left unchecked, this opium expansion will make effective heroin control virtually impossible in drug-consuming countries, as Europe is already aware.

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