The Drug War in the Skies

The US "Air Bridge Denial" Strategy: The Success of a Failure
13 May 1999
Book

The purpose of this report is to evaluate the effectiveness and impacts of one of the key US supply side-interdiction programs in the War on Drugs in Latin America.

The purpose of this report is to evaluate the effectiveness and impacts of one of the key US supply side-interdiction programs in the War on Drugs in Latin America. This strategy, known as "Air Bridge Denial", seeks to reduce the amount of cocaine entering the US and its domestic consumption by blocking the transport of cocaine and its precursors in the Andean-Amazonic region.

As this report will demonstrate, too much has been attributed to air bridge denial programs. Official US claims not only exaggerate efficacy, oversimplify causality, and obscure strategic defeats behind tactical successes, they also completely ignore the social, political and economic costs that the air bridge denial programs have produced in the host countries. Absent from the official declarations of tactical success are any mention of the growing militarization of the host societies and the concomitant threat to democracy, increases in abuses of authority and corruption, or the growth in criminal activity. Despite the evidence to the contrary, US officials have trumpeted the success of their air bridge denial programs, using them to demonstrate the overall effectiveness of source country interdiction as a strategy and to justify the continued outlay of funds for these programs. This effort on the part of US officials makes it all the more important to analyze the accuracy of the claims of success and document the actual impacts of air bridge denial on the host countries.

This report is the result of research conducted from April 1998 to January 1999 in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru by a multidisciplinary team, including experts in anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, journalistic research, legislation and planning. The research project is part of an extensive international initiative, known as the "Drugs and Democracy Program", which started in 1995 and is being co-coordinated by Acción Andina and the Transnational Institute. This part of the program was financed by NOVIB-OXFAM Holland.

It is our hope that this report will contribute to redirect the US War on Drugs and its negative consequences on Andean-Amazonic societies.

  • Executive Summary
  • Resumen