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The Tally Ho

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Blumenthal in the Guardian / War on Drugs

Maybe you caught Sidney Blumenthal's latest for the Guardian, One gulp, and Bush was gone. My favorite part
Offstage, beforehand, Rove and Bush had had their library tours. According to two eyewitnesses, Rove had shown keen interest in everything he saw, and asked questions, including about costs, obviously thinking about a future George W Bush library and legacy. "You're not such a scary guy," joked his guide. "Yes, I am," Rove replied. Walking away, he muttered deliberately and loudly: "I change constitutions, I put churches in schools ..." Thus he identified himself as more than the ruthless campaign tactician; he was also the invisible hand of power, pervasive and expansive, designing to alter the fundamental American compact.

Bush appeared distracted, and glanced repeatedly at his watch. When he stopped to gaze at the river, where secret service agents were stationed in boats, the guide said: "Usually, you might see some bass fishermen out there." Bush replied: "A submarine could take this place out."

David sent me Rachel Van Dongen's piece in the Christian Science Monitor, Quietly, the war on drugs gains ground. Here is a piece
When President Bush visits the seaside city of Cartagena Monday, he and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe are sure to tick off the latest figures: crops of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, were reduced in Colombia by 16 percent in 2003, to 213,000 acres, according to the United Nations. That's a 47 percent decline over three years, from a high of 403,000 acres in 2000. US figures, which rely on different methodology, are slightly less optimistic but still significant - a 33 percent decline since 2001. Production of poppies, the source of heroin, is down by 33 percent in the past two years, the US government says. With US help - to the tune of $3.3 billion - Colombia in recent months has seized record amounts of cocaine headed to US ports, approved the extradition of infamous drug barons like Cali cartel chief Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, and confiscated scores of luxurious properties belonging to notorious narcotraffickers.

Also, under the hard-charging Mr. Uribe - perhaps the firmest US ally in Latin America and a strong supporter of the Iraq war - Colombia has launched an unprecedented military drive called Plan Patriot against the leftist rebels known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). And Uribe is in peace negotiations with the right-wing paramilitaries, who are heavily involved in the drug business. Up to 3,000 troops in the 20,000-man army are expected to demobilize by year's end.

The drop in drug production is largely due to the aggressive coca fumigation program, mostly executed by US planes and pilots. In 2003 they sprayed 328,500 acres, the UN says. So far in 2004, according to the Colombian government, 310,600 acres have been sprayed, a slight drop from this time last year.

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