Cocaine Cowboys, the story of cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Florida, details the techniques, reasons, and effects of the influx of drugs to Miami. Now, this film only popularizes the drug dealing/trafficking lifestyle sought after by audiences. Scarface falls into the category of this movie, but it offers a grounded, on-the-streets view of these criminal organizations. The movie only mentions briefly action taking place in Latin America. There lies the root of the issue of drug trafficking.
During the early 1960s, the cocaine trade “consolidated itself into more systematic growing processing, and smuggling circuits” (Gootenberg 135). The United States saw a shift from marijuana importing to cocaine. In response, Washington began a “war on drugs” with the assistance of local armies. The United States falls under criticism of “collateral damage” in Coletta A. Youngers’ article. She says, “the counternarcotics mission provides the military with a task that is likely to lead to human rights abuses, and the “confidential” nature of counterdrug programs further exacerbates patterns of impunity” (127). The United States’ method to combating the drug trade was to train and equip military groups. Youngers highlights the issue of American-trained soldiers enacting tactical maneuvers, but the greater need was for human-rights training, as well as maintaining criminal rights and following proper investigative procedures.
Delving further into the drug trade, we find heavy involvement by United States’ agencies. The Department of Defense and Southern Command were creating stronger military control in these Andean countries; the same countries which were once under oppressive regimes. These countries also relied heavily on the economic success of the cocaine trade. This national view extended towards the drug cartel and counternarcotics. In the film, we see reports of Colombian social order, specifically in regards to the Medellin cartel. The narrator says towns in Colombia are filled with drug traders and facilitators. Delegating the “war on drugs” is like leaving a child to babysit infants. Combining the view of corrupt policemen from Cidade de Deus and the under-funded police from Bus 174, there seems to be a negative view of police in Latin America. It seems causal that the U.S. was forced to enlist the assistance of Latin American militaries, as well as other gray line methods.
The article “The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations” addresses instances of CIA involvement in the counter-revolution in Nicaragua, including funding through drug money. These seemingly “guerilla” tactics are reminiscent of the Cold War era analyses. There is an instance that a National Security Council aide wanted to use money from a cartel to fund the contras but failed to gain permission. It is possible that the boom in drug traffic was allowed to progress for some time. A tipping point, just as in the movie at the Dadeland Mall shooting, caused it to attract violence and further, more publicized control.