miércoles, 20 de febrero de 2008

The War on Drugs Starts Here

Editorial
New York Times
13 de Febrero de 2008

If we have learned one thing in the protracted war on drugs, it is that reining in illicit drug trafficking will require more than fighting cartels south of the border. Nothing can be achieved unless this country curbs its own demand for illegal narcotics.

The Bush administration, which offers regular lectures on the superior logic of the free market, clearly doesn’t get this equation of supply and demand. Last October, Washington announced a new $1.4 billion assistance package for Mexico and Central America to combat the drug trade. Then the White House unveiled its 2009 budget, which calls for a 1.5 percent cut in spending on domestic drug prevention and treatment programs.

The statistics on drug abuse for this country are at best mixed. The share of teenagers who said they had tried illicit drugs within a year has fallen sharply since 2000, according to surveys by researchers at the University of Michigan. The percentage of students in 8th, 10th or 12th grades who tried methamphetamine declined by more than half over the same period, while cocaine abuse declined by almost a quarter among 8th graders and 10th graders.

Still, teenage abuse of other narcotics, like prescription drugs, is growing. So is drug abuse among adults. The latest National Drug Threat Assessment reports that many more Americans over 18 are trying everything from heroin to marijuana to methamphetamine.

Yet the White House’s budget proposal for 2009 cuts the funding for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse to $4.9 billion. The budget for prevention programs — like the drug-free schools grants — was cut by 14.2 percent to just above $1.5 billion. After accounting for inflation, spending on prevention has fallen every year since 2002.

Mexico and Central America certainly need help to better fight the drug gangs moving narcotics into the United States. But it is clearly not enough. Washington has funded coca eradication efforts in the Andes for years. It has given the Colombian government more than $5 billion since 2000. Thousands of police have died in Latin America fighting the traffickers. Yet all the blood, tears and cash have had virtually no impact on the amount of drugs in the United States.

The federal government needs to do more to slow the flow of money and guns that finance and arm the cartels in Mexico and Central America. There is little hope of ever defeating the traffickers abroad if the government isn’t doing enough to reduce demand at home.