Private Contractors Making a Killing off the Drug War
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that our efforts to rein in the narcotics trade in Latin America, especially as it relates to the government’s use of contractors, have largely failed,” said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, chair of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight which released a report on counternarcotics contracts in Latin America this month. “Without adequate oversight and management we are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we’re getting in return.”
Washington doled out $3.1 billion dollars between 2005 and 2009, with spending having increased 32 percent over the five year period. DynCorp International was the big winner, racking in $1.1 billion, or 36 percent of total counternarcotics contract spending in the region by the Defense and State Departments. Other contractors benefiting from the spending include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ITT, and ARINC.
“The federal government does not have any uniform systems in place to track or evaluate whether counternarcotics contracts are achieving their goals,” the report states.
The June 7th Senate Report was released less than a week after an international drug commission declared the “War on Drugs” a failure. The commission included former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chief Paul Volcker, and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria.
The lack of transparency, oversight and accountability by the Defense and State Departments on counternarcotics contracts was brought to light last year in a May 2010 hearing McCaskill held in which the Defense Department provided incomplete accounting on how “Drug War” money was spent on private contractors. Remarkably, it was revealed that the Defense Department actually outsourced their audit to a private contractor for the hearing. In response, the frustrated Senator said at the time that she “will not hesitate to use subpoenas” in order to obtain accurate information.
This laissez-faire approach Washington takes with private contractors often leads to crimes and human rights abuses in foreign countries. For example, DynCorp, the company Washington has entrusted with a majority of taxpayer-funded counternarcotics dollars, has been mired in scandals over the years, that include: employees allegedly having sex with teenage girls in Bosnia and selling them as sex-slaves; pimping out young “dancing boys” in Afghanistan; and spraying toxic chemicals in Colombia that drifted into Ecuador and is believed to have caused “massive health problems, numerous deaths and widespread environmental damage.”
In response to criticisms, a Pentagon Spokesman told the the L.A Times that counternarcotics efforts “have been among the most successful and cost-effective programs” in decades and that “the U.S. has received ample strategic national security benefits in return for its investments in this area.” Some of these “benefits” might include U.S. military bases in Colombia, a law enforcement academy in El Salvador run by American “trainers” that critics fear could become another “School of the Americas”, and securing commercial access to oil. But one of these benefits definitely does not include significantly curtailing the amount of drugs reaching the United States, as the Rand Corporation’s Peter Chalk recently pointed out in his report on Latin America’s drug trade, an analysis sponsored by the U.S. Air Force.
Clearly the US-led war on drugs is failing as a policy to stop the production and trafficking of drugs. And it’s not as though there are not numerous viable solutions being provided by people across the hemisphere. Javier Sicilia, Mexican poet and leading activist against drug war-related violence in his country, told journalist Laura Carlsen of the Americas Program, “The United States must go back to the drawing board, listen to what citizens are demanding, and the United States should remember, as a democratic country, that sovereignty lies in the citizens, not in government officials.”
Security Conference Vows to Push Drug War into Central America
This past week was a busy one for the masters of war in Central America.
Presidents and bankers gathered at a high profile meeting on the drug war in Antigua Guatemala from June 21-23, producing a familiar sounding series of commitments to fight organized crime in Central America. The event was rounded out with pledges of almost two billion dollars in foreign aid and loans, much of which will go towards intelligence gathering and training of police forces.
The International Conference in Support of the Central America Security Strategy brought together Central American heads of state, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon, and representatives from more than fifty countries, including Israel, Spain, Canada, and South Korea. Also present was Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), as well as representatives from the World Bank, the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and the European Union.
During Wednesday’s proceedings, Clinton clarified the kind of strategy that will be pursued in Central America. “We know from the work that the United States has supported in Colombia and now in Mexico that good leadership, proactive investments, and committed partnerships can turn the tide,” she said.1
That the northern triangle of Central America, comprising Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is the most dangerous area in the world that’s not a war zone has become an oft-cited refrain as mainstream media outlets begin to beat the drums of war. By all indications, the U.S. led solution to this difficult situation is a simple one: bring open war back to Central America.
“We must remember that the war against organized crime and narcotrafficking is an extension of the war on terror, launched by the United States after the fall of the twin towers,” Maximo Ba Tiul, a Mayan Poqomchi analyst and professor explained to Upside Down World. “In Latin America, this must be understood as an extension of the cold war and the doctrine of national security, which were implemented to diminish the struggles of insurgent movements, of social movements, and of guerrilla movements to convert them into political parties and co-opt them into the very system of bourgeois democracy.”
both the above articles are from upside-down world