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Curbing drug trade

EFFORTS to curb the world's drug trade need to be redoubled in light of new evidence. Unfortunately, current attempts have not significantly decreased world drug production. The task is immense: No sooner, it seems, does one success occur than a similar problem crops up elsewhere -- whether the issue is drug refining, smuggling, or distribution. The stakes are high in the international struggle against drugs. The pollution of drug use saps countries and befuddles their citizens at a time when strong national will and clear individual thinking are demanded to deal with the challenge of nuclear weaponry and other major issues.

Recent evidence indicates anew the scope of the challenge that drug officials face. The new information also has the potential for further complicating President Reagan's foreign policy toward several nations where crops are grown that later are refined into drugs.

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At the same time, evidence indicates that the stepped-up federal drive has been sufficiently effective to concern deeply people involved in narcotics traffic.

One of the new elements is testimony before the President's Commission on Organized Crime. At a Miami hearing late last week, law enforcement officials said that neither heroin use in the US nor the amount of heroin produced worldwide has diminished despite the efforts of authorities in the United States and elsewhere.

Another element is the State Department's annual report on worldwide drug production. It finds that last year most nations that are major US drug suppliers grew drug crops as large as in the previous year, despite US efforts to get them to eradicate these crops.

The information is of particular import this year: A new law requires that the president cut off aid to nations that have not made sufficient progress in reducing their crops which are refined into illegal drugs, primarily heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Some members of Congress propose trimming or suspending aid to any country that has not made sizable progress by the time the Senate and the House vote on foreign aid proposals later this year.

One nation has made major progress -- Colombia. It has reduced its marijuana crop by one-third. Its government is engaged in a major struggle with the illegal drug industry, which for years had operated with virtual impunity.

Major illegal drug manufacturing and distribution rings are apparently feeling the heat of efforts to crack down on them -- by law enforcement authorities in the US, Colombia, and other nations.

In Colombia, the United States, and Mexico, large quantities of drugs or the plants that produce them have been confiscated in recent months. For instance, a week ago US officials seized a Colombian airline plane in Miami which was carrying more than a ton of cocaine into the US.

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The kidnapping by four armed men earlier this month of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in Guadalajara, Mexico, appears, in part, an effort to intimidate law enforcement agents working on drug cases. Violence similarly has befallen other law enforcement officers.

And leaders of Colombian drug rings have reportedly offered large sums of money as rewards for the kidnapping or killing of high officials of the US enforcement agency.

The drug trade is extremely lucrative. Millions of dollars are at stake, and major drug rings will not willingly surrender power. Law enforcement officials have a most challenging task, but an increasingly aware citizenry is beginning to support it. Successes in the crackdown thus far should be applauded; attempts should be redoubled in other areas. The issue is worthy of society's best efforts. ----30--{et

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