Academic journal article Journal of Drug Issues

Strategies for Controlling the Drug Supply: Policy Recommendations to Deal with Illicit Crops and Alternative Development Programs

Academic journal article Journal of Drug Issues

Strategies for Controlling the Drug Supply: Policy Recommendations to Deal with Illicit Crops and Alternative Development Programs

Article excerpt

Measuring the success of Alternative Development (AD) programs by the number of illicit crop hectares eradicated puts AD in an undesirable competition with aerial fumigation, which can reduce these areas in a much shorter time. Whereas AD can only obtain results over the long term, the political push to demonstrate immediate successful results has led to an imbalance in United States anti-drug aid, which is strongly weighted towards aerial fumigation. Despite the short-term success of aerial spraying, the key question of the political, social, and economic sustainability of the results obtained through the use of forceful eradication remains open. AD policies have suffered from changes in their focus over time. Today they are fixated on the idea that the sole purpose of illicit crops is to finance terrorist groups. This conception of the policy issue results in the use of force - specifically, aerial fumigations using chemicals - as the foundation for decision making. This single criterion, therefore, affects programs that once recognized the social and economic roots of the problem of illicit crops. This paper seeks to examine and question those aspects of the current strategy and to explore alternative strategies of eradication that take into account who makes decisions in this matter and on whose behalf said alternatives establish oversight for the ongoing advancement in drug policy.



AD is currently conceived in Bolivia and Colombia as a policy to complement the forceful eradication of illicit crops. This was part of the Colombian experience between 1994 and 1998 and part of the Bolivian experience after 1998 when the government strictly enforced manual eradication. This immediately led producers who depended on coca leaf to seek economic alternatives.

AD must be differentiated from force-based policies that require the prior destruction of illegal crops present in a region or locality. The political and military organisms responsible for carrying out such destruction employ dissimilar means. The Colombian AD program defined its purpose in the following manner:

...[Alternative Development] complements forced eradication campaigns of illegal crops and aims to contribute to the integral development of regions affected by the presence of illegal crops.... (Consejo Nacional de Estupefacientes, 1995, p. 80)

The same document makes explicit that

...the Alternative Development Plan will be carried out as a presidential program, oriented to offering, starting with the destruction of illegal crops, an economic alternative to life, one within the law, for peasants, tenant farmers, and indigenous communities involved in that activity [illicit crop cultivation]. (Consejo Nacional de Estupefacientes, p. 80)

In this sense, AD proposes first to soften the profound social and economic crises that the destruction of the illicit local economy based on the production of coca leaf, poppy, or marijuana has brought about and, second, to make sustainable in the long term that which has been obtained through the use of force.

Under this political constraint, AD has to confine itself within narrowly defined social and economic parameters, such as the reduction of unmet basic needs, the support of local development strategies grounded in environmental and land use policy plans, the expansion of available employment, the creation and increase of earning sources, and, in general, an improvement in the living conditions of those who depend on illicit crops.

AD can also be defined as a mechanism to reduce the regions where illicit crops are cultivated. Under this definition, successful AD objectives are always measured by the number of hectares that are effectively eradicated by producers of illicit crops. Furthermore, AD gets stretched out over time, with its primary purpose being to make sustainable the achievement of reducing these illegal crop areas. …

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