Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - As proof that the U.S.-backed drug war in South America is paying off, the Bush administration says cocaine production has plummeted by nearly 30 percent over the past three years.
But some American counternarcotics officials and drug-trade analysts call such triumphal pronouncements misleading.
A U.S. government task force, they note, estimated that cartels last year produced more than twice the amount of cocaine claimed by the White House. A report released last week by the United Nations maintained that cocaine output is actually on the rise.
The debate over drug numbers matters because Congress uses the White House figures as a measuring stick when determining the best way to spend nearly $1 billion annually in counternarcotics programs in South America.