Cocaine Cowboys

The film Cocaine Cowboys shows the introduction and expansion of the cocaine trade in the United States specifically through the international port of Miami. It told the stories of John Roberts, Mickey Munday, Max Mermelstein, and Griselda Blanco., and how they supplied the nation with literally tons and tons of cocaine throughout the 1980’s.

One way the American government has tried to cull the influx of cocaine is by attacking the source. They have, in many circumstances pitted supplier and cartel against local government, police, or even against rival suppliers and cartels (Youngers 127). They have spent millions of dollars training and arming local police forces and militia in rural Colombia. The only issue is that cocaine is, according to Fortune magazine, “… the fastest growing and unquestionably the most profitable” industry in the world. With lofty profits possible, there will always be a market, and always be a supplier. While the majority of the larger cartels have since been dismantled, there is a growing number of smaller, regionally connected group of cartels producing the majority of the cocaine that comes out of South America today.

One of the downsides of the arming of rebels was the contra affair that was uncovered in the 1980’s. The Central Intelligence Agency was funding these counter-revolutionaries against the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. These rebels carried out many human rights violations, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians. These accusations were brought to light in the late 1980’s by the Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism, and International Operations, and became a blemish on Reagan’s laudable presidency (GWU 1).

Another accusation against the government relating to the drug wars in the 1980’s was that they were selling cocaine to fund the arming of the local police and guerrilla forces. Sources claimed that military planes carried weapons down to the rebels in Costa Rica and returned loaded with drugs. Another complaint by the subcommittee was that the United States government knew the extent of the illegal activities being performed by Manuel Noriega and the rest of the Panamanian government. These activities included state supported money laundering for drug cartels, as well as taking bribes (GWU 1). These activities are mentioned in the film by John Roberts, who could cash any check in most Miami banks or car dealerships directly from a Panamanian bank, that he had stored millions of his illegally earned dollars, with no questions asked.