Cocaine Cowboys

Cocain Cowboys is a documentary that shows the rise of cocaine trafficking and it’s affect on Miami during the 1970-1980s. The influx of cocaine made Miami one of the richest and most dangerous places to be during the 1980s. From the first hand accounts of the interviewees of the film we learn that the cocaine buisness involved more than just the users and suppliers of  the drug but had fringe benefits for local police forces,politians,and buisnesses. At a time when the US was experiencing a recession, Miami was booming. It is because of the huge financial gains from drug trafficking that it was largely ignored by US officials. This aloofness of US governement agencies would be replaced for more aggressive action as the violent nature of drug trafficking expounds.The growing death tols of the many people killed as a result of the Miami drug wars was the very public cry that pushed for the dismantling of drug trafficking into Miami. However, looking further into the history of cocaine production shows that this problem will not be easily unraveled.

Trying to reign in cocaine trafficking proved to be a very hard if not impossible task. Cocaine production is widespread and highly organized buisness with advances in technology making it very difficult to dismember. The actual roots of cocaine production range from Peru, Cuba, and Bolivia to name a few  and hard to trace as many of these family-owned buisness had close ties to corrupt police forces and dirty politicians as shown in the film and relfected in Paul Gootenberg’s article The “Pre-Columbian” Era of Drug Trafficking in the Americas:Cocaine, 1945-1965. Gootenberg gives an example of this as one particular drug circle, “eluded arrests for many years with tip-offs from federal police, where they found an ally in Carlos Jimenez, the Sub-Prefect of Investigations” (147). Colletta Youngers made a great analogy in her article Collateral Damage comparing the combating of cocaine production to a balloon, when one area of trafficking was being squeezed, another area swelled up in its place(128).

The U.S. has been trying to control drug trafficking since it became illegal in 1945 by applying pressure to Andean countries to increase their local military forces but their agenda has been swayed and warped by political agendas.The U.S.’s tunnel vision when approaching drug control had negative impacts on the Andean countries who had been striving for a democracy. Youngers expalins that ”the U.S governement’s war on drugs clearly hinders efforts to put civilian-military relations on a new footing” (126) because the U.S. supported military presence for drug control, this invited back the very military power that had been the oppressors in these countries for so long. 

The actual farming of the crop is also hard to control. It has been found to grow easily in the tropics of many Latin American countries and has plenty of willing laborers who flock to find work in cocaine production as it provides one of very few sources of living. While U.S. policies are designed to fight the “war on drugs” Youngers brings to attention the U.S. government’s ”failure to provide adequate economic alternatives for those growing coca”(143). While Cocaine Cowboy demonstrates the enormity of the cocaine problem on U.S. soil and seems to warrant federal intervention, Younger’s article explains that these same military tactics do not translate well for the human rights of the laborers in Latin American countries.

The actual death tol of cocaine trafficking must include not only those observed during the 1980s Miami drug wars but also in the many people who have suffered since its early 1900 beginnings. The allure of money and addiction fueled cocaine’s widespread success. Though the film shows the dismantling of Griselda Blanco’s circle, what it does not show is that breaking up a major drug clan did not eliminate cocaine trafficking but rather shaped the next generation of cocaine traffickers to diversify and become more ambigious and stealthy.