Radio Address to the
Nation on Drug Abuse and Trafficking
April 16, 1988
news has been bad lately, and that's good. And here's why. You've probably been
hearing reports about Panamanian strong man General Noriega, who's been
indicted for drug trafficking, and his struggle to stay in power despite
pressure from his own people and our government to step down. You've also been
hearing about the drug-related arrests of many street gang members in Los Angeles. And then, too, there's
the news about congressional investigations of organized crime's involvement in
the drug trade.
these news reports reflect an important change since the start of our
administration in 1981. At the time, we faced a crisis of crime stemming from
the illegal drug trade, especially in south Florida. At my urging, Vice
President Bush headed up a task force that performed invaluable service by
coordinating the activities of all law enforcement agencies in the area and for
the first time brought to bear against the drug smugglers the full weight of
Federal resources. This included high-tech military equipment and the resources
of the intelligence community.
than a year later, I went over to the Justice Department to announce a sweeping
effort to break the back of organized crime in America. And a key part of this
approach was the hiring of more than 1,000 new agents and prosecutors as part
of 12 regional drug task forces based on the south Florida model. We also set up a
President's Commission on Organized Crime that did landmark work in tracing the
international connections of the domestic drug trade, pointing out the
usefulness of drug testing, and exposing not only the old style Mafia's
involvement in the drug trade but also the danger of new, emerging crime gangs.
In addition to all this, we got enacted sweeping legislative initiatives like
the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of
This early attention to the
criminal side of the drug problem, which has translated into a tripling of the
overall antidrug budget, is now paying dividends. Cocaine
seizures have increased by over 1,800 percent, arrests of major drug
traffickers have increased by almost 200 percent, and well over $500 million in
drug-related assets were seized in 1987 alone. And this kind of success at the
Federal level would not be possible without an unprecedented degree of Federal,
State, and local cooperation. Here in Washington this commitment is best evidenced by our
Cabinet-level National Drug Policy Board, as well as the Vice President's
National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, and the Department of Justice's
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.
emphasizing the criminal side of the drug problem is only part of defeating the
drug menace. Thanks to the efforts of Nancy's Just Say No campaign,
Americans are understanding that the permanent way to
end the drug menace is to deny the drug pusher his market -- to stop demand.
And that means education and prevention. It means understanding that drug use
is not a victimless crime -- that drugs kill and maim and finance the criminal
underground. It means accepting the concept of user responsibility. It means
realizing that those who use drugs are, in Nancy's words, making
themselves accomplices to murder.
in addition to prevention and education and drug law enforcement, we have also
been emphasizing the international side of the problem. When we came into
office there were drug eradication programs underway in only two countries.
Today that number is 23. In fact, this administration has signed an
unprecedented number of mutual legal assistance treaties, extradition treaties,
and eradication agreements. The unprecedented indictment of Panamanian leader
Noriega for drug trafficking by a U.S. grand jury is a further
indication of our nation's resolve to end the foreign supply of drugs. His
nation is in a crisis of his making.
as I said at the beginning, the fact that we're seeing more media coverage of
the drug problem and the heat put on people like General Noriega and the street
gangs in Los Angeles, or organized crime in general, is good news. Public awareness about the
destructiveness of illegal drugs is at an all-time high. Americans are
increasingly saying no to drugs. A recent survey of high school seniors showed
a significant drop in cocaine and marijuana use.
have a long way to go before we have a drug free America, and I hope the media
keeps emphasizing that point. But it's also true America has awakened to this
problem. That's quite a change from just a decade ago. So, that's the good
news, the very good news, about the bad news of drug abuse.
next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
President spoke at 12:06 p.m. from Camp David, MD.