03 March 2003
Drug Counter-Trafficking Efforts Achieve Progress in 2002
(U.S. says successes against drug trafficking also undermine terrorist
By Charlene Porter
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The United States and its allies against drug
trafficking made "progress in critical areas" in 2002 according to the
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) issued by the
U.S. State Department March 1.
And in a positive development that emerged after the report's
publication deadline, the State Department March 3 announced declines
in cultivation and production of coca in Colombia, the world's leading
producer and distributor of cocaine and the primary focus of U.S.
counter-trafficking efforts in 2002.
At a Washington briefing, acting Assistant Secretary for International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Paul Simons reported a 15 percent
decline in land devoted to cultivation of coca in Colombia. "If we can
sustain this," Simons said, "there will be a continued decline which
will affect the price and availability (of cocaine) in the United
Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States,
governments have focused greater attention on the links between drug
trafficking and terrorism. Efforts to sever those links have gained
new urgency, and that activity is a major theme in the INCSR 2002
In Colombia, authorities say drug trafficking is a major source of
revenue for three insurgent or paramilitary groups engaged in a
decades-old civil war.
Simons said the measurable decline in cultivation and production in
Colombia allows the United States and the Colombia governments to deny
profits to these groups "who feed on terrorism."
The progress against both trafficking and terrorism ranged beyond
Colombia in 2002, according to INCSR, an annual report compiled by the
State Department under a Congressional mandate. It is a comprehensive
survey of drug production and trafficking trends in most of the
"Our programs helped key governments weaken the drug trade at critical
points," according to the report. "This included attacking crops on
the ground, destroying processing facilities, interdicting drug and
precursor chemical shipments, and breaking up trafficking
Closing legal loopholes to prevent drug traffickers from sanitizing
their illicitly gained revenues is another key step in the anti-drug
strategy, Simons said, and one in which "significant progress" was
made in 2002. Closer international cooperation among governments and
financial institutions is reducing opportunities for organized crime
rings to launder their money, according to the report.
The international war on terrorism has been one significant motivating
factor for governments to work more cooperatively for stronger
controls to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. Some
nations, however, also have been motivated by their own social
problems. For years, some countries that were transit countries alone
---one stop on the international journey for a shipment of drugs --
now recognize that their populations have developed troubling drug
consumption problems in recent years, Simons said.
"China has a huge internal drug consumption problem," Simons said,
citing just one nation where domestic problems have led to more
"The Chinese see it in their own interest" to increase their
cooperation with the United States and other nations working on
counter-trafficking strategies, Simons said. "The Chinese recognize
this as a shared problem."
Despite the successes cited in INCSR 2002, the report also says the
battle against the international drug trade "does not get easier with
time." Trafficking organizations become ever more sophisticated in
their management techniques, communications, and financial acumen.
"The international counternarcotics effort, therefore, will require
even greater tactical adaptability and flexibility, closer
coordination between governments across the whole spectrum of
diplomacy and law enforcement, and significant resources," according
to the report.
Questioned whether authorities face an endless battle in the drug
wars, Simons said some nations have made huge gains in controlling
drug trafficking in their borders, and have done so without
significant resources. He cited successes in Thailand's virtual
elimination of opium production, and Bolivia and Peru's efforts to
achieve meaningful reductions in coca cultivation.
The ingredients for these successes, Simons said, were strong
political will, committed law enforcement, and alternative crops for
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
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