Cocaine Cowboys

     Cocaine use in the United States boomed in the mid-1960s. New York and Miami became drug havens for both consumers and distributors. What launched the cocaine drug trade can be traced to its manufacturing origins in the Andean countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Columbia, and continuing in Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, and into Mexico.

     In the early 1900’s cocaine could be medically prescribed by doctors for patients who needed more energy; long term affects of the drugs use had yet to be discovered. However by 1911, United States headed a world wide campaign to end cocaine’s drug abuse. In 1922 the U.S. had ceased importation of cocaine, and soon had the League of Nation’s in an anti-cocaine movement. After World War II, the U.S. tried to force South American governments to halt cocaine’s production by giving military aid but the drug’s production became one of the largest exports many of the countries had to offer.

    During the 1950’s, the Huallaga Valley was cocaine central in Peru. Cocaine leaves grew abundantly through out the valley where peasants could sell the leaves to the few organized manufactures of exportable cocaine. To this point the U.S. only saw a few cases of cocaine smuggling, but many narcotics agents began interrogating smugglers who stated Peru, along with other South American countries, was wide open for buying and selling cocaine. What was once a small industry; cocaine manufacturing grew into a much bigger business compared to the individual and opportunistic trade it was before. In Coletta Youngers’ article titled Collateral Damage, she introduces drug trade as squeezing a balloon. With the help of governmental intervention and the spread of a timely fungus to many coca plants cocaine production in Peru decreased; thus Colombia  experienced their own cocaine manufacturing explosion. Later, once the Medellín cartel was exposed their business was replaced by the Cali cartel, which was then replaced by smaller regional cocaine manufacturers. As long as the market for selling drugs is there; drug traffickers will continue to thrive creating more violence and crime in Latin America and the United States.

     Cocaine Cowboys focused on one import/export group that trafficked billions of dollars worth of illicit drugs through Miami. The ease of their operation leads me to believe that there must be multiple more operations similar to theirs still in business today. Had it not been for one man giving the details of their operations to the DEA; they could still be in business. Through programs like the “Andean Initiative” and “Plan Columbia”, the U.S. is focusing on destroying the source of drug production. However these programs have had little success in decreasing the amount of drug use in the states, and funding these programs becomes less justifiable. The U.S. is fighting a war against drug smuggling but with out having one true enemy; finishing the war will be continuing struggle.