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Missionaries Mistaken As Drug Dealers & Shot Down Over Peru
A News Analysis By Terence T. Gorski (4-28-01)

Issue:  Should the United States of America provide surveillance support to third world counties in executing suspected drug dealers without a trial by shooting down private airplanes?

A plan carrying missionaries was shot down over Peru on April 21, 2001 by US-led War On Drug forces killing a 35 year old mother and her seven month old daughter who became collateral damage in a failing war on drugs.  Veronica Bowers, 35 and her seven month old daughter, Charity, were shot to death in the incident.  Other passengers were severely injured including the pilot who had the bones in both legs shattered when the Peruvian fighter jet opened fire. 

On April 24, 2001, The USA Today reported that the incident is raising understandable doubts over the drug war.  The missionary plane was shot down as part of routine combat operations that are part of the on-going US War On Drugs.  The Drug War costs US tax payers about $2.6 billion each year, the majority of which goes into supply reduction activities which include crop eradication efforts in foreign countries and military support in interdiction of drug smugglers by foreign governments. 

The US Drug War efforts in Peru, Columbia, and other South American countries are aimed primarily aimed reducing the supply of drug entering the United States by eradicating drug crops, and interdicting aircraft and boats that are suspected of transporting drugs. 

Environmentalists present strong evidence that the crop eradication programs are doing serious harm to the environment and accelerating the destruction of the rain forests. 

Human rights activates point out that US military aide, including sophisticated reconnaissance aircraft are being put at the service of many South American countries with questionable human rights records and military commanders not trained to exercise proper discretion needed to avoid killing, injuring, and arresting innocent people.

In 1994 the US Congress passed a law that allows the CIA and other agencies to help foreign nations in the interdiction of aircraft where there is "reasonable suspicion" that the plane is primarily engaged in drug trafficking.  The US has such agreements with Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. 

Since December 8, 1994, when Peru was approved for the US program, it has shot, forced down or strafed more than 30 aircraft believed to be running drugs and seized more than three dozen aircraft on the ground. 

Even though the US government contends the eradication efforts in Peru are successful, the Peruvian cocaine business remains profitable with the eradication and interdiction programs having little over-all impact on drugs entering the United States.

The futility and resources wasted on the war on drugs becomes even more obvious when looking at Plan Columbia which received $1.3 billion in funding this year from the US Congress to help eradicate drug crops.  But drugs lords are already finding ways to work around plan Columbia by moving production just over the Peruvian Border and out of reach of US interdiction efforts and setting up cocaine production facilities just across the border in Brazil and Bolivia.

This is demonstrated by observing that as crop eradication and interdiction efforts are increased and begin to succeed, production just shifts to other countries with less restrictive tactics.  Total supply of drugs to the US remain unaffected.  Cocaine and heroine are readily available on US streets and process are dropping while purity of the drug is increasing.  These are signs of a thriving business in spite of the massive military efforts to combat drug trafficking.

All of this is happening in spite of the fact that A Rand Corporation Study has proven that treatment provided within the United States to drug Abusers will be seven times more effective in reducing drug sales than crop eradication, interdiction, and law enforcement efforts combined.  Yet the US War On Drugs Policy continues to drain funding from treatment programs while heavily funding military support to foreign governments for military anti-drug programs and supporting a growing army of paramilitary police authorized to execute no-knock drug warrants and do neighborhood sweeps primarily in poor ethnic communities to arrest drug abusers.  Currently 25% of the two million people incarcerated in the US are non-violent drug over offenders.  Less than 20% of current inmates are incarcerated for violent crime.  Drugs are readily available on the black market of most prisons.

Here's a question to reflect upon: 

If we canít keep drugs out of a maximum security prison by the use of police force, how can we ever hope to keep drugs out of a free country by the use of police force? 

Fortunately, we donít need to use as much police and military force because properly designed and deployed community based treatment efforts are far more effective in stopping the use of drugs and in restoring individuals, families, and communities to better health and productivity.

See slide show on Public Health Addiction Policy for further information.


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