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US Expands Failing Drug War to Africa

Common Dreams staff

The US has begun an expansive program to push the War on Drugs beyond Latin America and into the backyards of West Africans, according to a new report by the New York Times. The US is implementing extensive training for an "elite unit of counter-narcotics police" in Ghana but has similar plans in several African countries including Nigeria.

According to documents, Congressional testimony and interviews with a range of officials at the State Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Pentagon, the US sees Africa as the "new frontier"--to invade and to implement drug combat.

According to the Times, William R. Brownfield, the US assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, traveled to Ghana and Liberia in May to complete the formation of the West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative, a drug fighting unit modeled after counter-narcotics police in Latin America. Future plans will implement drug-fighting units across 15 African nations.

However, many do not see a bright future in this expansion. Bruce Bagley, a professor at the University of Miami and expert on Latin America and counter-narcotics, told the Times that to chase the war on drugs to West Africa simply exhibits the ongoing “Whac-A-Mole” problem: to make trafficking difficult in one place simply shifts it to another.

“As they put on the pressure, they are going to detour routes, but they are not going to stop the flow, because the institutions are incredibly weak — I don’t care how much vetting they do,” Professor Bagley said. “And there is always blowback to this. You start killing people in foreign countries — whether criminals or not — and there is going to be fallout.”

Earlier this year several heads of state and government officials from across Latin America unified to call the US 'War on Drugs' a failure and sought to find new alternatives to prohibition at the two-day 'Summit of the Americas' in Cartagena, Colombia.

Their reasoning was largely ignored by the US and Canada.

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