One approach of rich countries to curbing their drug problem is to push the fight back towards the source – into the countries which produce and illegally export the drugs. It is then a small step to view such countries, or minorities within them, as national enemies, and the obvious counter-force as military. However, by offering military equipment (air and riverine bases, helicopters and firearms) and training to police and counter-narcotics agencies in countries with questionable human rights records, "democratic" countries are encouraging them to perform domestic law enforcement duties prohibited by their own military. There is growing evidence that this controversial programme has led to serious human rights abuses. The equipment and training received by anti-drug forces can be easily used for counterinsurgency purposes. Such a policy can also involve the external countries in brutal counterinsurgency wars.
For Latin America overall, U.S. government funding for anti-drug efforts has increased more than 150 percent over the ten year period 1988-1998; yet by the U.S. State Department's own estimates, coca cultivation is 11.7 percent higher and opium production has doubled over that time period. U.S. anti-drug efforts have failed most spectacularly in Colombia, the largest recipient of U.S. counter-drug assistance (a total of nearly one billion dollars to 1998). Yet over the previous decade, total drug production in Colombia has risen an estimated 260 percent. Coca production in Colombia has more than tripled, making Colombia the world's leading coca producer. Only four years ago, no heroin was produced in Colombia; it now ranks third in the world in poppy cultivation and fourth in heroin production.
In 1998 a bill was introduced to the United States government to authorize $2.3 billion over three years for equipment (mostly military hardware), personnel, and training to fight drugs in Latin America. The goal of the Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act of 1998 was to cut the flow of drugs into the United States by 80 percent. In reality, however, it threw an outrageous amount of money into an anti-narcotics strategy that has been a resounding failure and impinges on human rights abuse in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico.