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Drugs wars don't work

America has spent billions battling the drug industry in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. And the result? Production as high as ever, street prices at a new low, and the governments of the region in open revolt.

One of the reasons we went into Afghanistan was to end the supply of heroin. In 2001 90% of the heroin on the streets of Britain came from Afghanistan. Now, after 57 UK deaths, thespending of more than £200 million on crop irradiation, poppy production is at an all time high, and 90% of heroin in the UK comes from Afghanistan. There is a difference, the UK heroin street prices are the lowest they have ever been

The immensely costly "war on drugs" in Latin America is slowly collapsing. The £13bn that Washington has spent trying to control narcotics over the past 15 years in Latin America has  been wasted.

In 2005 Colombia, Peru and Bolivia had the capacity to produce 910 metric tons a year. As more productive strains of coca bushes appear, production has been increasing.


Unsurprisingly, the price of cocaine on US streets has tumbled, according to the White House drug tsar John Walters, to $135 (£70) a gram, a fraction of the $600 a gram it was fetching in 1981. The purity of cocaine has gone from 60 per cent in mid-2003 to more than 70 per cent last October.

Like the conflict in Iraq, the war against drug is lost. Time for an alternative intelligent strategy?