Cocaine Cowboys

In the film, Cocaine Cowboys, Miami in the 1950s and 1960s was a place for seniors to roam the beaches. However, in just a couple of years, Miami would be the most dangerous place in the world due to the influx of immigrants participating in the Medellin drug cartel. In the short years that the drug cartel controlled Miami, the drug trade went through three stages. The first was the initial stages of development- distribution and the loose network that ran the distribution. The second was complete rise of the drug cartel in the 1980s. Finally, the intervention of higher authority on the violence of the cartel lead to the final stage of the drug trade in Miami. While the infiltration of the drug trade in the U.S. came and went rather quickly, drug cartels had been undergoing these stages in the Andean region long before it infiltrated the city of Miami.

Fortune magazine, the cocaine trade is “probably the fastest growing and unquestionably most profitable” in the world (Youngers 120).
In Youngers’s article Collateral Damage, the focus is the effect of U.S. intervention of the drug trade. How was it that the U.S. would interfere in a South American problem? The first stage is development.  The presence of cocaine on American soil originates in the Andean region (Youngers 127). In 1947, a new organization of drug traffickers evolved in the Andean region called “narcoraficantes” (Gootenberg 133). It was in the Andean region that the various groups came together and “invented new tools of the trade” beginning in Peru (Gootenberg 133).  The second stage is the rise of a powerful new force. Once it spread to other South American countries, in 1959, the cocaine drug trade became a more “systematic, growing” process (Gootenberg). Larger organizations sprung up in Latin American countries and soon formed into drug mafias. In Colombia, the infamous Medellin cartel was one of the evolutions. In the development of the drug trade in Miami, the Medellin cartel was fundamental. At the height of the drug trade in 1980s Miami, the decadence of violence was excessive, even more threatening than the notorious Italian mafia.

The final stage is the aftermath. Once violence reached an unprecedented level, governments finally took measures to reduce the influence of their pertinent drug cartels. In Bolivia, the government’s efforts to eradicate the trade worked; however, the eradication, simultaneously, destroyed the local economy (Youngers 125). In Colombia, the drug trade sustained the economy. In the U.S the government developed the “Andean Strategy” (Youngers 129). They increased funding of the local law enforcement and military anti-drug activities both domestically and abroad (Youngers 130). However, U.S. intervention in the international drug trade has given rise to “counter insurgency” with groups such as the FARC in Colombia (Youngers 145). The combined efforts led to the dismantling of the Medellin cartel in the 1990s. However, Youngers phrases it as “like a balloon.” Because squeezing it in one area, causes it to pop up in another area (Youngers 127).