|Illicit Drugs: Social Impacts and Policy Responses (UNRISD, 1994, 19 p.)|
|POLICY OPTIONS: WHAT IS TO BE DONE?|
The failure of law enforcement agencies to control the supply of drugs in producing countries has led, in many cases, to an increased reliance on military intervention to bolster drug control efforts. This approach has been particularly emphasized by the United States in its relations with the Andean countries. To date, the so-called war on drugs in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru has involved large increases in US military assistance for anti-drug activities and the granting of aid to local militaries in addition to the anti-drug police. The US army has had little direct involvement in drug producing countries, but it has expanded its role in training, advising and assisting with electronic surveillance.
A 1990 agreement between Bolivia and the United States linked a five fold increase in US military aid to direct involvement of the Bolivian army in drug control operations. The agreement created substantial internal political problems for the Bolivian government and failed to make any significant dent in drug growing, processing or trafficking. By 1992 both governments had reduced their emphasis on the militarization policy.
Those opposing increased military involvement in drug control operations have a number of concerns. First, such policies work to strengthen the military at the expense of civilian governments. Especially in Latin America, which has a long history of military coups, this prospect is disturbing. Second, the army tends to focus on peasant drug crop growers as the easiest targets in its anti-drug operations, leading to a very real potential for a major escalation in human rights violations. Third, there is concern that increased military involvement will not be able to destroy the drug trade, but instead will lead to increased violence by prompting drug traffickers to strengthen their own military capacities. In addition, rural opposition to military activity seen as threatening peasants livelihoods might lead to the formation of armed opposition groups or increased rural support for existing insurgent groups - as happened in Peru when US-backed coca eradication efforts led to increased support for Sendero Luminoso.
Fourth, given the levels of poverty and the power of drug money in drug producing countries, increased contact between the military and drug traffickers may well result in increasing institutionalized corruption within the armed forces - which in many cases already have a history of maintaining symbiotic relationships with the drug industry. Finally, it is argued that increased militarization cannot be effective because it does not address the roots of the drug problem: poverty in developing countries and demand for drugs in developed countries.