Drug Control:

U.S. Efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean

NSIAD-00-90R: Published: Feb 18, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on efforts to reduce the flow of drugs into the United States, focusing on the: (1) nature of the drug threat facing the United States; (2) way in which the international drug control strategy of the United States addresses the nature of the drug threat; and (3) obstacles that foreign governments and the United States face in reducing the drug threat.

GAO noted that: (1) the drug threat confronting the United States has changed; (2) since 1996, Colombia has surpassed Bolivia and Peru as the world's leading source of cocoa and has become the primary source of cocaine and heroin being shipped into the United States; (3) according to U.S. officials, the most recent data indicate that because of the increase in Colombian coca cultivation, the type of coca being grown, and the production efficiencies of the drug traffickers, the total amount of cocaine produced significantly increased in 1998 and 1999; (4) Mexican drug-trafficking organizations have become the major conduits for cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines that are consumed in the United States; (5) the U.S. international drug control strategy emphasizes reducing the production and flow of cocaine and heroin before they reach the United States; (6) in Latin America and the Caribbean, the strategy is designed to reduce drug trafficking in the source countries of Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru and in transit areas within the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico; (7) because of the increased drug threat to the United States from Colombia, the U.S. strategy places its highest priority on eliminating drug-trafficking activities in this country; (8) the executive branch recently requested a substantial increase in counternarcotics assistance to Colombia; (9) since 1997, GAO issued numerous reports discussing the obstacles that foreign governments and the United States encounter in trying to reduce drug-trafficking activities; (10) many obstacles still remain; (11) foreign governments and law enforcement organizations frequently lack resources, equipment, and training necessary for them to stop drug production and trafficking activities; (12) this problem continues to be compounded by widespread corruption which, according to U.S. officials, exists within many of these governments; (13) counterdrug efforts must compete with other economic and political issues such as dealing with local insurgent groups; (14) the level of U.S. support devoted to detection and monitoring activities has declined in the source countries; (15) staffing limitations and information-sharing issues continue to impede coordinated counternarcotics efforts; and (16) human rights concerns sometimes make it difficult for the United States to support counternarcotics efforts in some foreign countries.

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