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June 2007
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Change in Colombian drug war coming?

The word is that Colombian President Uribe is going to face new challenges when facing a Democratic House as he lobbies for more drug war funding.
Chris Kraul writes in the Los Angeles Times:

When Republicans were in control of the U.S. Congress, Uribe, a U.S.-educated ally of President Bush, managed to convince the leadership that despite ongoing problems, he was still fighting against drugs and terrorism as best as could be expected.
Now as Uribe arrives in Washington today on one of his frequent trips to lobby Congress, the tables have turned. At this pivotal point in binational relations, he faces a Democratic majority far more prone to blame him for a slew of human rights abuses, the alarming alleged paramilitary connections to his government and the failure to slow cocaine production.
The latest setback occurred Monday, when the White House released a survey showing that despite massive spraying of defoliants to wipe out coca crops, farming of the base material for cocaine in Colombia grew 9% in acreage in 2006, the third straight year of increases. The growth came despite a 24% jump in spraying, prompting critics to call for a new approach to the Plan Colombia anti-drug and terrorism aid package, which costs the U.S. $700 million a year.

And Patty Reinert and John Otis in the Houston Chronicle:

President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, in Washington yet again to lobby for trade and aid, will be greeted by Democrats planning a dramatic change in U.S. support for the South American nation. The program would veer away from military and anti-drug efforts and toward development and human rights projects. […]
Instead of allocating close to 80 percent to the Colombian military and drug-eradication programs, as has been the case for the past decade, lawmakers are proposing that only 65 percent of the total aid package go to the military. The remainder would be designated as economic and humanitarian aid.

While I suppose this is a welcome trend, it still seems ridiculous to those of us who really understand the economics and dynamics of the drug war. It’s like saying that instead of giving an 80/20 split of school funding for beating/educating children we’re going to reduce it to 65% for beating children. Sure, it’s an improvement, but it’s still stupid.
Unfortunately, this appears to be the ongoing problem with the Democrats when they actually attempt to deal with drug war excesses. Rather than taking any kind of bold step that would make a significant difference, they sort of water down the bad policy a little, which sets themselves for accusations of being soft on drugs — the very thing that they were trying to escape by avoiding the strong decision.

There’s one thing that I’m waiting for right now from the Democratic Congress. It’s a tiny thing in the overall scheme of the drug war, but it’s a chance for the Democrats to make an actual change. It’s getting close to the time of year for the annual Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment. This is the amendment that would prevent the federal government from interfering with states that have medical marijuana laws. We need to gain about 50 votes over the past few years’ attempts.

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