Drug Plane Shoot-Down Policy In Latin America

When the Peruvian air force shot down a civilian Cessna last week, killing missionary Veronica Bowers and infant daughter Charity, it was the CIA-contracted crew of a U.S. surveillance plane who had tagged the tiny craft as a suspected drug carrier. This so-called “liberal shoot-down policy” would never be tolerated in this country, but it’s been part of U.S. policy in Latin America for years. In fact, military forces there, aided by the U.S., have “forced down” over 120 planes suspected of transporting drugs, according to the 1999 congressional testimony of General Charles Wilhelm.

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Into the Quagmire: Colombia and the War on Drugs

I’m going to address two issues. One is a general critique of U.S. international drug control policy, the so-called War on Drugs that we’re waging, primarily in the Andean region of Latin America, and more specifically, U.S. policy toward Colombia and the $1.7 billion aid package, primarily military assistance for Colombia, that’s presently pending on Capitol Hill.

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The CIA, Contras, Gangs, and Crack

In August 1996, the San Jose Mercury News initiated an extended series of articles linking the CIA’s “contra” army to the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles. Based on a year-long investigation, reporter Gary Webb wrote that during the 1980s the CIA helped finance its covert war against Nicaragua’s leftist government through sales of cut-rate cocaine to South Central L.A. drug dealer, Ricky Ross. The series unleashed a storm of protest, spearheaded by black radio stations and the congressional Black Caucus, with demands for official inquiries. The Mercury News’ Web page, with supporting documents and updates, received hundreds of thousands of “hits” a day.

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