Page 14


,,4416.b.W m c DsRUC Air ti LYNN EFTING smiling world leaders cooperating and succeeding in eliminating the drug scourge. But who could blame him? So little of interest had emerged from the proceedings that it’s no wonder frustrated mediacrities like Karem were scraping at every opportunity to wring a tidbit of useful information out of the inscrutable officials present. 44 T he War on Drugs is not a political war,” proclaimed U.S. drug czar Bob Martinez at his pre-summit press conference. He was wrong. Politics is concerned with the distribution of resources and the administration of public affairs, and the WOD involves both. As the negotiations would make clear, the political concerns of the national leaders gathered at the summit, including Bush, drive their drug policies. Martinez’s predecessor, William Bennett, said that drugs make y6u stupid, but Martinez is living refutation of the converse of that theory sobriety doesn’t necessarily make you smart. His breezy assertions that all was going well on the frontlines belied the evidence, a great deal of it from San Antonio, which has seen a sharp increase in drug-related violence in recent years. A third of illegal drugs entering the U.S. pass through South Texas. Not that Martinez was the most credible of sources. Like several Bush administration figures, the czar was given his office, not because of his ability as an administrator, but to compensate him for losing his race for re-election as Florida governor. He’s being investigated by the FBI for possible violations of campaign finance laws, his clout in Washington is near nil \(he was bumped from his White House office by John Sununu after the chief of staff resigned to fers from a reputation for ineffectiveness. Most of the tough questions at Martinez’s press conference came from the foreign press. A Venezuelan reporter asked whether the answer to drug violence was to legalize use and spend money treating the causes of drug abuse. Without deigning to discuss the relative merits of legalization vs. war, Martinez replied that there had been a “hardening of attitudes” in this country toward drugs and that legalization “isn’t gonna happen.” He insisted that the administration was winning the war. But the facts don’t back him up. While marijuana use has dropped over the last decade, the fact that the weed is bulky and relatively easy to detect has led dealers to switch to more profitable, more easily concealable harder drugs like cocaine. Use of that substance has decreased among first-time, higher-income, and casual users, but is becoming more concentrated among hard-core users and poorer Americans, and violence in areas where they live is soaring. Even though funding for the drug war has increased 700 percent in the last decade, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, cocaine use actually increased last year, and production and shipment of the narcotic to the U.S. has jumped. Most frightening of all is the recent dramatic upsurge of heroin use and production. Facts like these explain why, during the summit, so many observers, Protesters at the Drug Summit . including U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary crime and criminal justice subcommittee, were pronouncing the drug war a failure. The San Antonio Summit was the second major gathering of world leaders to address the drug issue. Four of the nations represented this time were also present in Cartagena, Colombia, two years ago to work out a coordinated international strategy. That Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela were added to this roster for the SA meeting is a tacit admission of the failure of the first: Interdiction efforts agreed to in Cartagena have led to proliferating sources of production and consumption, as drug operations move to other countries where crackdowns aren’t so fierce, according to a 1991 staff report of the House Judiciary Committee’s crime subcommittee. In Cartagena, the U.S. agreed to a $2.2-billion aid package for the South American countries. The money was spent on crop substitution \(to encourage peasants to grow food judicial reform, but mostly on strong-arm tactics. Since Cartagena, U.S. forces have been involved in crop eradication, interdiction and enforcement, including raids and strikes, both along the U.S. border and in the Andean nations. Other goals agreed to in 1989, such as crackdowns on money laundering and controls over distribution of weapons and equipment used by dealers, remain unfulfilled, perhaps because these would impinge upon powerful economic interests such as gun merchants and banks. Though willing to parlay U.S. drug hysteria into long-sought goals such as increased aid and trade from the north, Latin leaders have generally looked to strategies that address the social and economic causes of the drug trade much more than have U.S. drug warriors, who seem obsessed with waging Desert Stormstyle military attacks on what the rest of the world views as a social problem. The leaders of the Spanish-speaking nations at the summit have reason to be wary of U.S. military aid. Most countries south of the U.S. border have suffered through decades of dictatorships enforced by U.S.-trained soldiers; Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua and others are still feeling the consequences. Venezuela’s president canceled his appearance at the summit after a near-coup led by disgruntled military officers last month, underlining the precarious position of South American governments visa vis their military establishments. The Washington-based Drug Policy Foundation recently issued a report demonstrating that the military strategy urged on South America by Bush jeopardized those countries’ fragile democracies. It cited an example in which the U.S. forced Bolivia to use its military against cocaine farmers in return for $33.7 million in aid in 1990. There are political barriers to Bush’s bruteforce tactics as well. Drug cultivation provides a significant portion of Andean income, particularly in Peru, where for many peasants coca is by far the most profitable crop. Because of great disparities in wealth and traditions of official corruption, most South American bureaucracies cannot be trusted to enforce policies made by los norteamericanos. Most of the high officials in Panama, for example, are alleged to be involved in the drug trade in one fashion or another, if only in laundering money. Guerilla movements in Peru and, to a lesser degree, Colombia, are tied to drug trade and extensive U.S. military involvement against coca growers might play into the hands of rebels who accuse governments, often accurately, of being yanqui puppets. \(This is not to claim any moral superiority for the north; the summit was held amid reports of indictments handed down against a South Texas sheriff, allegedly THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13