The United States has a long history of intervention in the affairs of one it’s southern neighbor, Latin America. The war on drugs has been no exception. An investigation of US relations with Latin America in the period from 1820 to 1960, reveals the war on drugs to be a convenient extension of an almost 200 year-old policy. This investigation focuses on the commercial and political objectives of the US in fighting a war on drugs in Latin America. These objectives explain why the failing drug policy persisted despite its overwhelming failure to decrease drug production or trafficking. These objectives also explain why the US has recently exchanged a war on drugs for the war on terrorism.
Fighting a Losing Battle
Since it’s beginning, the war on drugs has been a series of lost battles. Failed expectations in Panama, Colombia and Bolivia provide glaring examples.
The US invaded Panama in 1989 and removed leader Manuel Noriega from power. Prior to Noriega’s arrest, the Bush administration had portrayed him as a “linchpin” in the narcotics drug trade. However, after his capture and imprisonment on drug charges,the drug trade went on unaffected. Drug trafficking actually increased through Panama (Fishlow 120).
In 1995, the US began to fund aerial eradication campaigns in Colombia. Military planes dumped pesticides over thousands of acres of coca fields. These campaigns turned out to be counterproductive, leading to an actual increase in the amount of coca acreage. The spraying of coca only led Colombian growers to diversify their techniques, growing coca amongst other crops or in locations that were hard to identify by radar techniques. In 2002, the CI...
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“Insurrection against Colombia.” Columbian Electronic Enclyopedia. Columbia University Press, 2000.
Kirk, Robin. More Terrible than Death: Massacres, drugs and America’s war in
Colombia. PublicAffairs, New York, 2003.
Mabry, Donald. “Theodore Roosevelt's Latin American Policy.” The Historical Text
McDermott, Jeremy. “US Targets Colombian Rebels as War against Terrorism Escalates.” Scottsman.com. February 10, 2002.
Potter, George Ann. “Is the War on Drugs Bringing "Dignity" to Bolivia?”TheWashington Report on the Hemisphere. Vol. 19.11. July 30, 1999.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia website. (www.farc-ep.org)
“US Intervention in Latin America.” Small Planet Communications, 2000.
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