Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration and congressional allies are gearing up to renew a plan for drug eradication in Latin America despite some grim news: The $5.4 billion spent on the plan since 2000 has made no dent in the availability of cocaine on American streets and prices are at all-time lows.
United Nations figures released this month show that coca cultivation in the Andean region increased by 2% in 2004 as declines in Colombia were swamped by massive increases in Peru and Bolivia. And the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said last week that the anti-drug effort had had "no effect" on the price or purity of drugs in the United States.
The findings have fueled skepticism in Congress, where conservative groups have joined efforts to lobby against continued funding. The National Taxpayers Union called the anti-drug program a "boondoggle."
Nonetheless, a House committee last week approved the administration's request for $734.5 million for next year as part of a foreign aid bill. Debate on the bill could start as early as today. President Bush also may unveil a renewed multiyear commitment to South American anti-drug efforts this year when Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a staunch U.S. ally, is expected to visit.