Drug Control in South America Having Limited Success

Some Progress but Problems Are Formidable Gao ID: GGD-78-45 March 29, 1978

Nearly all of the cocaine and most of the marihuana entering the United States come from South America. Peru and Bolivia are the major producers of coca, from which cocaine is made, and Colombia is the primary processing and transmitting country for cocaine. Colombia has also surpassed Mexico in marihuana production. Disrupting and intercepting the flow of drugs into this country is a major U.S. law enforcement objective and an important part of the worldwide U.S. drug control program. In South America, this effort is multifaceted and involves several agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of State, the Agency for International Development, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

International drug control program officials believe that the cocaine flow into the United States is increasing and that the drug program in South America has had a minimal effect on the flow of narcotics. One problem hampering enforcement efforts is a paucity of systematically analyzed intelligence. As a result, enforcement efforts to eliminate major trafficking networks may not have been as effective as they could have been. U.S. officials felt that the real key to program success is a stronger commitment by South American governments. Such a possibility is limited by corruption within many South American countries, particularly Colombia, and a lack of host government resources committed to drug enforcement. Crop substitution is one approach to reducing the flow of cocaine, but pilot projects to identify adequate alternative crops have so far been unsuccessful. From 1973 through 1977, the United States provided $7.8 million worth of law enforcement equipment to 10 South American countries. Legislation has placed prohibitions against U.S. financial assistance to foreign police, but these prohibitions do not generally apply to narcotics control.

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.