States moves at some point towards legalization, no country in Latin America will be in a position to do so without incurring severe sanctions from Washington.
If the legalization option is set aside on grounds that it is not politically viable to destroy or even dent the power of drug traffickers, Latin American countries will need substantial additional assistance from the United States. Unfortunately, Washington's political climate presently seems to be shifting in the other direction. Congress has reduced American economic and military assistance around the world. Many Congresspersons and commentators argue that Washington should demonstrate its "commitment" to the war on drugs by decertifying and punishing Latin American source and transiting countries if they fail to control drug trafficking. It is rarely recognized that, in general, these countries need inducements and not sanctions.
There can be no doubt that the United States needs to rein in demand more effectively for any real success in the war against drugs. As long as the profits remain so great, illicit drugs will be smuggled into the United States. It is also crucial to recognize that linking demand reduction with stepped-up law enforcement at home and abroad, although perhaps logical from the U.S. perspective, is also fraught with danger, particularly for source countries. Such a policy would likely put greater emphasis on demand reduction and domestic law enforcement in the United States, but in all probability, it would also involve at least as much, and possibly more, emphasis on source country governments. Given the realities of U.S. civil liberties, judicial safeguards, and budgetary constraints, "get tough" legislation in the United States will probably mean "get tough" with Latin American and Caribbean governments that do not fully meet U.S. expectations and demands. 43
Assuming basic continuity in current U.S. antidrug policies--and there are no signs of fundamental change, regardless of controls the White House or Congress--what options are available for its improvement? One potentially fruitful change would be to employ less rhetoric and more diplomacy, which might permit greater U.S. cooperation with the very Latin American countries from whom active support is most needed.
A parallel reduction in stated goals and expectations would be prudent. American drug officials should establish more realistic objectives and standards for their own antidrug programs and for other nations in the region. In this regard, it is crucial that American policy makers recognize that they are dealing with Latin American realities as they are, not as they might wish them to be.
Serious attention must also be given to the medium- and long-term future of the drug phenomenon. U.S. and Latin American leaders must anticipate and plan for a changing drug. The major issue in 1988 was cocaine, especially its derivative, crack. Ten years ago, cocaine was a problem on the horizon; crack was unknown. The principal challenge for