Can Economic Aid Make a Difference in Flow of Drugs?
1. The United States government spends nearly $100 million annually, working towards the goal of greatly reducing the drug flow into this country (Abbott 160). Compared to the $100 million the U.S. spends, the $3 to $5 billion the Latin American countries bring in each year from drug trafficking is quite unbalanced. While researchers agree drug crops create a source of income for a number of Latin American people, they disagree about whether or not economic aid from the United States can make a big enough difference to slow the drug flow into the country.
2. Some experts believe crop substitution is one way the economic aid money could be used to curb drug trafficking. Bruce Michael Bagley, from the Journal of International Studies and World Affairs, reports that the United States could help the Latin American nations by coming up with programs for the coca farmers to substitute their crops and income with legal plantings and earnings(Massing 176). L. Douglas Wilder, TransAfrica Forum, agrees with Bagley and adds the farmers in these source nations do not grow coca leaves to get rich, but because they need to provide for their families (Massing 180). Colombia’s attorney general, Horaciio Serpa, also believes that in the drug producing zones, resources for crop substitution are needed so that the peasant farmers can still make a living growing these new crops (Massing 180-81).
3. On the other hand, the opposing side claims that crop substitution is not enough, contending the Latin American countries also need additional financial support from the consumer countries. According to J. Martinez Vera, World Press Review, changing the crops will only work if and when they can sell a pound of bananas for the same price as a pound of cocaine (Lee 184). Coca farmers only earn about 1% of what the crops ends up being worth, but it is still more than they can make growing legal crops. "The cocaine industry is an important source of jobs and income in regions characterized by desperate poverty and widespread unemployment" (Lee 184). When one follows the trail of the coca leaves from the field to the point of smuggling it into the United States, an estimated 500,00 to one million people are directly employed (Lee 184). Because so many people benifit from the cocaine industry, simply substituting the crops may not be enough.
4. Others feel the money for economic aid should be spent in other ways. The mayor of Calamar, Vincente Ferrer Londono, feels that the production of coca leaves would completely disappear if the United States government would pave the road from Calamar to San Jose, which is the gateway to the national market. He contends that the farmers can grow plenty of corn and rice, but due to the very poor road conditions, they can’t get the produce to the market (Massing 179). Michael Massing, a free-lance writer, is in agreement. saying that...