Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, noting law enforcement reports that the nation's drug problem is out of control, called on government and private enterprise Friday to increase their commitment to battling the narcotics problem.
"How long are we going to let our underbelly be attacked by this form of terrorism? When are we going to say stop?" he said during a luncheon to kick off participation of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles in Drug Abuse Resistance Education, a police inspired anti-drug campaign in city schools.
Ueberroth had several suggestions for attacking the national epidemic, including use of the military to fight cocaine smugglers, cutting off aid to countries that fail to eradicate drug crops, tougher drug laws and a massive educational program aimed at youth.
Ueberroth made headlines recently when he called for drug testing clauses in professional baseball players' contracts.
Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, who also spoke at the luncheon, said law enforcement alone cannot solve the nation's drug problem. Three years ago, his department created DARE, one of the few such drug education programs of its kind in the nation. Uniformed Los Angeles officers are assigned full time to elementary schools to educate children on the dangers of drugs.
Presently, 52 officers are assigned to 347 elementary and 58 junior high schools at a cost of $4 million a year. The program receives some funding from the city and federal governments, but most comes from private donations. To date, 47,000 children have gone through the 17-week course.
Ueberroth accused the U.S. government of failing to get tough with those countries that produce most of the cocaine smuggled into this country. He noted that in spite of generous foreign aid to those countries, including money for eradication programs, coca crops are increasing. He said that in 1983, Bolivia--which supplies 25% of the world's cocaine--promised to eradicate 10,000 acres of coca plants by the end of 1985. Instead, coca planting increased by about 50,000 acres, he said.
(This year, the United States withheld $7 million in economic aid from Bolivia for failing to meet the target. However, the coca crop is estimated to bring in $600 million a year. This week, U.S. Army pilots and helicopters were sent to Bolivia to participate in a joint operation to raid 50 jungle cocaine laboratories.)
Declaring that the federal government has spent little on drug education, Ueberroth called for the nation's business leaders to get involved in the fight. He suggested that America's top 200 advertisers use 3% of their budget for three years to provide prime-time television ads to "sell kids on how dumb it is to put rat poison in their system."