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April 2007
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An embarrassment for the Drug Czar

White House letter: U.S. cocaine prices drop despite billions spent on drug war

The street price of cocaine fell in the United States last year as purity rose, the White House drug czar said in a private letter to a key senator, seemingly contradicting U.S. claims that US$4 billion (euro2.9 billion) in aid to Colombia is stemming the flow.
The drug czar, John Walters, wrote that retail cocaine prices fell by 11 percent from February 2005 to October 2006, to about US$135 (euro99) per gram of pure cocaine. That’s way below the US$600 a gram pure cocaine fetched in 1981, when the U.S. government began collecting data, and near the level it has been at since the early 1990s.
During the same period, analysis of data collected by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration showed that after a drop in 2005, levels of purity “have trended somewhat toward former levels,” Walters said.
Walters made the disclosure in a January letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, the Republican co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. The Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank, obtained the letter and made it available to The Associated Press.

Oops.

… Grassley, in an e-mailed statement, said the letter is “all the proof that anybody needs” that the White House drug office “has gotten quite good at spinning the numbers, but cooking the books doesn’t help our efforts to curb cocaine and heroin production and consumption.”
The numbers cited by Walters contradict upbeat appraisals made by U.S. officials as recently in March _ two months after Walters’ letter.

Wait a second. I think I just heard… Was that the sound of someone calling Walters a liar?

Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said despite the existence of the new estimates, senior U.S. Embassy officials provided him with older, more upbeat data during a March visit to Bogota.

More lying?
So far, this story has shown up in Taiwan and France. Wonder when it’ll hit here? And what this will do to funding for the Colombian drug war?
Update: Huffington Post has it.

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