WASHINGTON -- Cocaine and heroin are cheaper today on US streets, despite a multi-billion- dollar, 25-year drug war, according to the Washington Office on Latin America, citing data from the US drug czar.
"The demand for cocaine, crack and heroin is at least stable, if not rising," said John Walsh, an expert on the matter at WOLA, a Washington think-tank on Latin America.
The price of two grams of cocaine dropped nearly 31 percent, from 161 dollars in 2000, when Washington launched Plan Colombia against drug traffickers and rebels, to 106 dollars between January and June 2003, the most recent data available, according to data delivered to WOLA by an unidentified member of Congress.
The same data show that during the same period, the cost of a gram of heroin dropped 14 percent, from 414 to 362 dollars.
In the first half of 2003 the prices of cocaine and heroin were one-fifth of their prices in the early 1980s, Walsh said.
"After 25 years and 25 billion dollars fighting drugs in Latin America, we are no closer to winning the drug war -- which is ultimately about reducing drug abuse," said Joy Olson, executive director of WOLA, in a presentation of the 400-page report.
"We've spent billions on anti-drug efforts in Latin America and have nothing to show for it but collateral damage," Olson added. "We can do better. We've been tough on drugs; now it's time to get smarter."
WOLA, which seeks an alternative US drug policy, said that the data was prepared by the Rand Corporation for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, headed by White House "drug czar" John Walters. Rand is a private analysis firm.
An anti-drug official confirmed the Rand statistics, but told AFP that WOLA's report was "sort of a half truth."
He said that because the most recent statistics were not available, a 33 percent drop in Colombia's coca cultivation had not had a chance to be felt in the United States.
"The impact of Plan Colombia is something that's going to be felt in the future, not in the past," the source said on condition of anonymity.
"We need to keep up that pressure but there's no way that June 2003 data even address much less disconfirm the impact of Plan Colombia."
He added that a recent study showed a drop of 11 percent in drug consumption among the young, including cocaine, in the last two years.
"We know that in general the amount of cocaine assumed to be used in the US has gone down fairly steeply," he said.
"The US had 300-350 metric tones of cocaine consumed a year, that has dropped in our estimates to around 250 metric tones of cocaine. So the numbers of users have been relatively stable and the use among young people has dropped, the amount consumed has dropped and has some relationship to price (and) purity," he said.
Walters said in October 2003 that the eradication of drug-producing crops in Latin America would cause substantial change in the availability of cocaine in the world in the next six to 12 months. In August, he repeated that in 12 months there would be results.
The United States has spent 3.3 billion dollars on Plan Colombia since 2000 and President George W. Bush said last week in Cartagena, Colombia that he would push Congress for more money in 2005.
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