Drug War Wreaking Havoc in Latin America

Two recent congressional reports highlight the violent, unintended (?) consequences of America’s drug war in Central and South America.

The Senate report Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico finds that up to 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico from 2009-2010 came from the United States. The investigation came out of reports that the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) encouraged gun shops to sell thousands of military-style weapons to various Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to accrue intelligence via a controversial tactic called letting the guns walk.

The other report out of the Senate, New Information About Counternarcotics Contracts in Latin America, investigated the State Department and the Defense Department policies in delivering what are essentially military contracts to Latin American governments, including Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. Excerpt:

The analysis finds that from 2005 to 2009, the federal government’s annual spending on counternarcotics contracts in Latin America rose by 32%, from $482 million in 2005 to $635.8 million in 2009.  In total, the government spent more than $3.1 billion on counternarcotics contracts during this period.  Key findings in the analysis include:

  • From 2005 to 2009, the majority of counternarcotics contracts in Latin America went to only five contractors: DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ITT, and ARINC, who collectively received contracts worth over $1.8 billion.
  • The State Department and the Defense Department spent nearly $2 billion on counternarcotics contracts in Colombia alone from 2005 to 2009.
  • More than half (52%) of counternarcotics contract dollars during this time period were spent to acquire goods and services related to aircraft, which are used for drug location and eradication.  In total, the federal government spent approximately $1.6 billion on aircraft-related services, maintenance, logistics, support, equipment, and training from 2005 to 2009.
  • Neither the State Department nor the Defense Department has adequate systems in place to track counternarcotics contract data.  Testifying before the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight in 2010, Defense Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counternarcotics and Global Threats William Wechsler called the Defense Department’s processes for managing counternarcotics contracts “inconsistent,” “time-consuming and error prone.”  The State Department simply does not have a centralized system to collect or track this type of information.
  • While spending on counternarcotics contracts increased by 32% over the five year periodunder review, contract management and oversight has been insufficient, and has not kept pace with the government’s increased reliance on contractors.
  • The federal government does not have any uniform systems in place to track or evaluate whether counternarcotics contracts are achieving their goals.

We’re either arming the gangs or the governments and its causing terrible havoc in the region. All for a lost “War on Drugs.”