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04 March 2005

Nations Make Progress Against Drug Trafficking in 2004

State Department report finds increases in eradication, commitment, interdiction

By Charlene Porter
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- A significant decline in Western Hemispheric drug crops, increases in the interdiction of drug shipments and a weakening of drug trafficking organizations were the hallmarks of global trends in international narcotics control during 2004.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), among the world’s most detailed reference sources on the illicit drug trade, was unveiled at the U.S. Department of State March 4. [The report is available in full at]

Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Robert B. Charles said three significant trends emerge from the two- volume, 600-page report. First, he said, a growing number of nations recognize that drug trafficking has far-reaching potential to undermine a society.

“It has a direct impact on violence, stability, corruption, terrorist funding, all the pieces of what we worry about most,” Charles told reporters at a State Department briefing.

Secondly, he said that increased national leadership emerged in 2004 to produce greater results in controlling drug trafficking. The third trend toward progress Charles identified is a stronger commitment among nations to address the problem on a regional and global basis. 

The report places strong emphasis on recent progress achieved in the decline of narcotics cultivation in Colombia. The South American nation is the source of 70 percent of the world’s cocaine, plus a major source for heroin consumed in North America, and is therefore the recipient of the majority of U.S. international counternarcotics funding.

Charles cited a 21 percent reduction in Colombian hectares devoted to drug crops in 2002, and a 15 percent decline in 2003. Overall cultivation figures for 2004 are not yet available. 

Colombia’s crop eradication efforts set a record in 2004 with some 140,000 hectares of coca and poppy destroyed, Charles said, anticipating even further progress to come. 

“In 2005, we are ahead of the hectarage numbers in 2004,” Charles said.  The State Department’s narcotics official noted that the findings show an overall regional decline in narcotics source crops, and no evidence that cultivation is moving into nearby Peru or Bolivia as Colombian authorities become more aggressive. 

The trends are not as positive in Afghanistan, the world’s number one cultivator of the opium poppy, from which heroin is manufactured. The number of poppy hectares soared almost 240 percent in 2003, a development that, while unwelcome to narcotics control experts, was not unexpected.

“The reality is [that] in a post -conflict environment in which you have very fragile institutions of democracy, and you have the third poorest country in the world, it is not unlikely that you would see a growth rate something like that,” Charles said.

The United States and other international partners have pledged to provide assistance and support to help Afghanistan move beyond the thirty years of conflict and civil war that have devastated the economy and the social fabric.  The United States alone plans to invest $780 million to help develop the economic and institutional infrastructure that the struggling nation needs.

“The problem is considerable,” Charles said, “but the commitment to address it has grown markedly.”  The State Department official described Afghan President Karzai as “resolute” in his commitment to prevent his nation from becoming a narco-state, or a puppet of drug traffickers. 

The interdiction of drug shipments and manufacture is another important INCSR theme. U.S. and Latin American governments seized more than 13 metric tons of cocaine and inflicted damage on several key drug trafficking organizations, the report says. 

U.S. congressional legislation requires the State Department to prepare the report annually -- a country-by-country survey that describes efforts to attack all aspects of the international drug trade, chemical control, money laundering and financial crimes. The report for 2004 is the 19th time the edition has been compiled.

INCSR provides the background and documentation upon which the president must make an annual determination as to which nations are major drug traffickers or drug producers, a decision routinely made in the final quarter of the year.

In September 2004, using data unveiled in March 2004, President Bush named 22 nations to what is referred to as the “Majors List ” -- Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

The law also requires the president to ascertain how well these nations are doing in attempting to combat the drug trade and trafficking through their territories. In 2004, only Burma was cited as a nation that, according to the language of the law, “failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts" during the previous 12 months to meet its international counter-narcotics obligations.

The presidential declaration did express concerns, however, about whether governments in Afghanistan, Haiti, Nigeria, and North Korea are either capable of or committed to combating drug trafficking.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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