Cocaine Cowboys

The film Cocaine Cowboys provides a look into the drug trade of Miami and its interactions with Latin American countries (Columbia, Cuba, etc) in the late 70’s and 80’s, as well as showing the effects of the drug trade economically, emotionally and legally.  The film follows the events of certain members of the trade (Jon Roberts, Mickey Munday, among others) and their respective jobs within the organizations, whilst also detailing the violence and brutality that ensued as the need for more power became apparent, especially in the Griselda Blanco organization (now recognized for killing children, in-discretionary killing and Griselda’s own severe bloodlust resulting in 200+ deaths). 

Fortunately, US involvement in the drug war in the late 80s and early 90’s under Bush Senior allowed for a severe reduction in the violence and importation of narcotics into the country.  However, this was also at a cost, as in years prior the USA was involved in its own “illicit” activities to help combat the drug trade at home and abroad.  Youngers article “Collateral Damage”, exemplifies the wasteful nature of the United States and its ‘Andean Initiative’s’ in its war on drugs:  “In short, several billion dollars have been allocated to Andean counterdrug efforts in recent years.  Yet there is hardly a dent in overall cocoa production and cocaine and heroin are just as cheap and readily available on U.S. City streets as they were when the Andean Initiative was first launched”….”yet with no enemy to declare formal victory, the war continues unabated at a high cost to U.S taxpayers and, most significantly, to the people of the Andean region.” (131) Though the general idea was to go after the “source-countries” of these particular narcotics, the United States’s involvement in increasing military efforts in the area resulted in adverse affects and some of the worst human rights debacles of the area, including deaths of civilians (ex. April 2001, civilian plane shot down, killing Missionary mother and child [132]).  In turn the Pentagon in “seeking to strengthen” its and the native countries forces in Latin America, caused political strife, as local governments were trying to decrease military expansion, having lived in military states for many years, were hesitant on increasing such forces in light of the desire for civilian rule in the area (133).

US involvement in Columbia, according to Youngers is “intertwined with the military’s counterinsurgency campaign”.  In affect this has resulted in innocents being killed due to political violence, with the numbers doubling in the past few years, in addition to this “over three hundred thousand in 2000” to a million overall of Columbian citizens have been forced from their homes.  The US’s war on drugs appears to be failing in addition to causing political problems in other countries. 

There is also evidence of the US being aware of the growing drug trade problem years prior to the events of Miami with the increase of seized cocaine going from “26 pounds in 1967…to 436 in 1971 (174)” according to Gootenberg’s article “Pre-Columbian” Drug Trafficking in the Americas. This article also explains how “cold-war politics” caused by the US resulted in the growth of the Drug trade in countries like Bolivia (ex. 1952 revolution removed the national army due to the US “reversal” of the revolution.  This then left Bolivia “in an era of statelessness” (162).  US politics and drug policies seem to fuel violence abroad, whilst only squelching a bit of the issue domestically.

A strong point that the film makes is how Miami, in essence, exists as it does today because of the drug trade and the spending it allowed on goods and services in Miami, which in turn, led to mass development of the city, with office buildings and sky scrapers being constructed galore (being financed almost completely via drug money investment in local businesses, etc)  This is seen as both a blessing and a curse, as it placed Miami onto the global spectrum, but to some, at too great a cost in life.