Destroying drug crops

EFFECTIVELY combating the illegal drug trade requires stepped-up global action by law-enforcement groups -- as well as the support of political leaders. Unfortunately, for all the progress that has been made by many nations in recent years in identifying and imprisoning drug traffickers, much more remains to be done. Of particular concern is the need for governments to more aggressively locate and destroy drug crops.

A new US government report -- the State Department's midyear assessment of narcotics production -- underscores the failure, for various reasons, of many governments to effectively destroy drug crops despite official assurances that they are eager to do so. In some nations, such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Jamaica, there has been success in destroying marijuana or coca crops, the latter used to make cocaine.

Peru -- a major source of coca cultivation -- is the latest nation to begin a major effort to clamp down on drug production, under the leadership of its dynamic new President, Alan Garc'ia P'erez. But on a global basis, production of some drug crops -- such as coca and marijuana -- continues to increase.

Resistance to destroying these crops remains strong at the local level. That is not surprising, since the crops can produce substantial revenue for the largely impoverished growers, far more than any other agricultural commodity. Bribery is commonplace in many parts of the world. And of course in some countries there are formidable logistical problems involved in locating and destroying crops -- such as terrain that can hide drug fields and the remoteness of regions in which the drugs are grown.

Precisely for such reasons Washington -- and that means both the Reagan administration and Congress -- must continue to take all possible steps to prod other nations into fulfilling promises to curb the growing of drug crops and the processing of them into finished drugs for the illicit American market.

Congress can certainly take account of the degree of efforts along these lines when considering economic assistance requests, or other legislation that would benefit the nations involved. And the White House, through formal and informal channels, can continue to urge overseas leaders to eradicate crops. This year, for the first time, the President has a major tool at his disposal: Congress has linked foreign aid to the degree of effort at eradicating drug growing and processing. It is important that

there be no letting up in the effort to curb the drug trade at its source -- by pinpointing and destroying the crops.

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