Cocaine Cowboys (2006)

Cocaine Cowboys chronicles the rise of the cocaine trade in Miami in the 1970’s and 80’s. The film uses first-hand accounts of those involved, as well as extensive news footage from the period, to illustrate how the drug-trade in Miami went from being centered around marijuana, to the small-scale importation of cocaine, and then into a multi-billion dollar industry comprised of an extensive network of smuggler, distributors, and dealers. Many Cubans, Columbians, and Americans were involved with smuggling drugs into the U.S. As drug-traders’ wealth accumulated, millions of dollars went into legitimate businesses in Miami. Whereas in the late Sicties and early seventies, Miami was a small, economically stagnant town, the late Seventies and Eighties saw the city explode with project financed by drug money.  However, in the 1980’s, the drug trade became extremely violent, ultimately leading to the fall of the “Cocaine Cowboys.”

Cocaine use has an interesting history in the United States. For mush of the Twentieth Century, it was not very popular as a recreational drug, and most cocaine used came from medical supplies. Following the First World War, The U. S. took a leading role in discouraging cocaine’s use and production worldwide. Although it was not a major issue for most countries The U. S. nonetheless aggressively pushed for its criminalization. Following the rise of American power around the world after World War II, most of Latin America was “compelled” to follow along, despite histories of local coca use. It took a while for illicit cocaine production to take off; it was not until the mid to late 1960’s that cocaine smuggling into the U. S. came to be of note, and even then, it was minor to what it would become in the 1970’s and 1980’s. (Gootenburg, Paul. Pre-Colombian Era of Drug Trafficking: the Americas, 2007)

As we see in the film, cocaine became a big deal in America, during the the 70’s and 80’s. Coletta Youngers chapter “Collateral Damage: the U. S. War on Drugs and its impact on Democracy in the Andes, focuses on the American Governments response to the cocaine boom. According to Youngers, the strategy of combating drugs by taking actions in “source countries” (where the drugs are produced), begun in 1989 with the “Andean Initiative” of president George H. W. Bush, has had extremely negative impact on democracy and regional stability in Latin America, as well as encouraging human rights violations. These negative effects of U. S. drug policy are the result of the United States supporting corrupt military units in actions against civilians.

One aspect of the movie covers the corruption of local law enforcement in Miami. Many cops not only turned a blind eye, but assisted in drug smuggling operations. This kind of corruption reached so far as the White House, as it has been uncovered that under the Reagen Administration, that Contras operating in Nicaragua were receiving money and weapons from the United States… and sending back cocaine.