|Report on the NGO Observation Trip to the Caribbean and
Representative from the Center visited regional UNDCP offices in the Caribbean and South America and observed the activities of some of the NGO programs that had received UNDCP grants from the funds raised by "No, Absolutely No!" UNDCP Fundraising Campaign in Japan. Center representatives traveled to the six countries of Barbados, St. Vincent, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia, where they visited five UNDCP regional offices (Barbados and St. Vincent share the same regional office located in Barbados) and observed and participated in exchanges with 12 NGOs.
The UNDCP regional office for all of the Caribbean islands is located in Barbados, and it is responsible for 29 countries. Moreover, six of these countries are British territories, two are U.S. territories, two are Dutch, and three are French departments. Drug are a major problem in the area. Tourists from these countries with which the island have ties bring illicit drugs with them, and the islands also serve as a transit point for illicit drugs bound for U.S. and Europe. Marijuana abuse permeates the island of Jamaica and has spread to St. Vincent. In this region, there appear to be many school teachers who voluntarily get involved in drug abuse prevention and education activities. At the same time, since there appear to be a number of unemployed young people, the guarantee of simple employment is one of the first necessities in drug prevention activities. The UNDCP grant, from the Center's contribution, was divided to support a number of small projects, and, as was expected, it had the effect of rehabilitating drug users.
The lower regions of the Amazon River in Brazil are being used as transit points to move cocaine produced in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia as well as to smuggle the precursor chemicals necessary to produce the cocaine in the opposite direction, from Europe and U.S. up the Amazon and into Peru. The domestic drug abuse problem in Brazil is fueled by street children who are flooding the cities and acting as distributors for drug dealers. Among youngsters under 10 years old, inhalants (such as glue) are abused, while marijuana abuse is most popular among teenagers. The Center's grant was used to purchase a Caravan Car, Video tape deck, and other equipment to used by counselors in a positive campaign to promote the regular activities of the Boy and Girl Scouts as an alternative drug-free lifestyle. In Rio de Janeiro, another grant was put to good use by funding a survey of the current situation in local slum areas.
The average income in Bolivia is the lowest in South America. In the areas in the upper Amazon region where coca is cultivated, drug trafficking is also rampant. Of course, the numbers of street children are also increasing, and drug abuse is also spreading. In this country, a grant from the Center is being used to support a soccer problem which helps protect children from the temptation to abuse drugs.
Peru is the world's largest producer of coca leaves and gives the impression of being a paradise for drug abusers and thieves. On the outskirts of the capital, Lima, located on desert-like sand hills, illegal squatter slums have been constructed, and a large number of those who live there abuse drugs. The situation is such that these children are often left to become street children by the time they are seven years old, and one would expect the government to take measures to handle this economic and administrative problem. Of course NGOs have inplemented programs to rescue and aid these street children, but it is reported that a certain percentage of these children already have died from AIDS. Of course, all of those who contracted AIDS were drug users. When asked in a telephone conversation about this situation, the Japanese Ambassador to Peru said that the Peruvian drug problem could best be understood by comparing it to the Japanese tobacco problem. He also spoke about an alternative crop substitution program recently implemented in Peru with joint cooperation from U.S. and Japan.
The last country visited by the Center was Colombia, whose drug cartels continue eve now to conduct terrorist acts around the world. The Center representatives were quite nervous about visiting Colombia, but, upon arriving in Bogota, to their surprise they found the most beautiful city of all those visited in South America. Bogota is a normal city which offers a very hospitable living enviroment. Of course, like all the other South America countries the Center visited, it had its section of alum areas, but upon visiting other well-kept areas, it was clear that this region differs from those in the other South American countries.
According to the explanation of the director of the UNDCP regional office, the production of cocaine takes place in the southern part of Peru, Bolivia, and Equador where these countries border the Amazon in jungle regions in clandestine labs which are virtually impossible to detect. Recently, these countries have also begun to illegally cultivate poppies imported from Southeast Asia, and a substantial amount of opium is also being produced illicitly. In Colombia as well, drug abuse among young people is not unusual. The numbers of street children aged nine and above are increasing, and, at the same time, so are the numbers of prostitutes. It is said that many of these young prostitutes are given drugs by their clients. A rehabilitation center has been established in a section of the prostitution zone in Bogota, where the children receive job training and training in such issues as child care in order to reintegrate them into society.
The final location visited by the Center representatives was Medellin, the home of the largest cocaine cartel some years before. Surprisingly, they found an NGO organization much like the Drug Abuse Prevention Center which has been implementing drug education and prevention campaigns for 18 years. This NGO had used its grant from the Center to conduct a survey of the drug abuse situation among coal miners.
Although this is certainly not true across the board, the problem must be understood against a background of terrorism, retaliation, and corrupt law enforcement officers. One thing all of the countries visited had in common was corrupt law enforcement officers.
Another thing that was readily apparent was that, of all the various established methods to promote drug education and prevention, demand reduction was a key them. The UNDCP is actively supporting three broad programs. The three main pillars if the UNDCP campaign are :
(1) demand reduction (demand reduction, drug education and prevention);
(2) prevention cultivation of illegal crops (alternative crops substitution);
(3) enforcement (supply reduction, strengthening controls).