VIENNA (Reuters) – A UN anti-narcotics drive has backfired in part by making drug cartels so rich they can bribe their way through West Africa and Central America, UN crime agency chief Antonio Maria Costa said yesterday.
The 10-year “war on drugs” campaign had cut drug output and the number of users, he said. But it had a “dramatic unintended consequence” — profit-gorged trafficking gangs destabilizing nations already plagued by poverty, joblessness and HIV-AIDS.
“When mafias can buy elections, candidates, political parties, in a word, power, the consequences can only be highly destabilizing,” Costa, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told a UN drug policy review meeting.
“While ghettoes burn, West Africa is under attack (by Latin American traffickers transshipping cocaine to Europe), drug cartels threaten Central America and drug money penetrates bankrupt financial institutions,” he said. A key part of the problem was the failure of many countries to take UN conventions against crime and graft seriously and the prevalence of corrupt border, army and police officials.
“As a result, a number of countries now face a crime situation largely caused by their own choice. This is bad enough. Worse is the fact that quite often, vulnerable neighbors pay an even greater price,” said Costa.
He was launching a meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs to review the decade since a UN General Assembly special session set targets to tackle producers, traffickers and end users.
Papering over internal dissent over how to make anti-drug policy more effective, the 53 nations on the commission were expected on Thursday to enact a declaration committing them to the program to fight the drug trade for another 10 years.
“If we look at the physical dimensions of the problem — tonnes of (narcotics) production and numbers of addicts — we can state that humanity has made measurable progress (since 1998),” said Costa.