Bolivia: Drug War Casualties
Graham Gori’s AP report in yesterday’s New York Newsday on life in Bolivia during the drug war…
Ibuelo Alto, Bolivia – One morning in April, Hilaria Perez Prado began her day as always: hoping soldiers wouldn’t burst from the jungle and tear her farm to pieces.They did come, though.æ They trampled her fields.æ And then one shot her in the chest as they left.
He goes on to relate how Washington has spent $470 million on “Plan Dignity.”
They yanked out more than a billion plants.æ Bolivia went from supplying half of the United States’ cocaine demand – the crop brought an estimated $500 million into this country of 8 million people each year – to supplying very little.æ American diplomats called Plan Dignity their most successful anti-narcotics mission ever in South America.But bananas, manioc root and other crops urged on peasant growers haven’t proved profitable because few buyers come to these isolated regions, and farmers have begun drifting back to coca.æ Coca production in Bolivia is up 23 percent since 2001, the White House Drug Policy Office says.So anti-drug efforts have been intensified, bringing an escalation in tensions and conflict between soldiers and peasants.Farmers plant homemade land mines in coca fields and put rat poison in low-hanging fruit in hopes soldiers will eat them.æ Troops sometimes resort to gunfire.
The farmers are hungry.
Stanley Schrager, former director of the narcotics section at the U.S.æ Embassy in La Paz, isn’t sympathetic to the argument that farmers must grow coca to survive.“There is an idea out there – I call it the myth of the innocent coca farmer – that he is simply trying to put food on the table to feed his kids,” Schrager said.æ “But in reality he is at the beginning of a chain of events that ultimately leads to the drug trade and drug addiction in the United States, and thus bears some responsibility for the ruined lives which are the result.”
Thus the drug warriors exhibit, at the expense of the farmers, their lack of understanding of the failure of supply reduction. If you want to see what supply reduction looks like graphically, click here.