Cocaine Cowboys

Cocaine Cowboys is a documentary released in 2006 that chronicles the rise of the cocaine trade in Miami in the 1970′s and 80′s. The film has interviews with first-hand accounts of people involved and extensive news footage from the period to show how the drug-trade in Miami developed from a focus on marijuana into an incredibly lucrative cocaine enterprise consisting of smugglers, distributors and dealers. This influx of capital helped to shape Miami into the city it is today. As drug-traders’ wealth accumulated, millions of dollars went into legitimate businesses in Miami. The film describes that although the drug trade helped build up the city it also resulted in a destructive wave of violent crime that eventually killed the “cocaine cowboys” who had started the whole cycle.

The cocaine drug trade exploded onto the scene in Miami during the 1970s, but this was by no means the beginning of drug trafficking in America. According to the National Security Archive’s declassified documents written by Oliver North, the National Security Council it has been around for a very long time. In one instance North summarizes a meeting with Robert Owen, a liaison who was associated with the contras. They discussed a plane used by Mario Calero, the brother of Adolfo Calero, to transport supplies from New Orleans to contras in Honduras. North writes: ‘Honduran DC-6 which is being used for runs out of New Orleans is probably being used for drug runs into U.S.’”  The article continues to talk about how the information may not have ever been passed on to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Not all of this critical information about drug trafficking was always passed on to the appropriate agencies. “As a result of drug-war politics, the US government became an accomplice, albeit indirectly, of authoritarian rule” (Youngers 138). Youngers’ says that the US government had a relationship with Montezinos, the Peruvian “drug czar”.  The CIA knew about the drug trade that was occuring at one point and allowed it to happen.  Further, CIA documents explain Manuel Noriega’s collaboration with the Reaganm Administration when he was discovered collaborating with Colombian drug-traffickers.  The purposeful ignorance of drug trafficking into the US had serious repercussions for Latin American supply countries once the violence in Miami forced the government to declare a war on drugs.

The film depicts how drug smuggling in Miami eventually led to drug wars, making Miami one of the most dangerous cities in the US. At first, the cocaine business went smoothly, without creating much violence in Miami. However, violence emerged within factions and between other factions—such as the Cubans versus the Colombians. This violence continued in Miami until the United States government pursued massive drug busting in order to combat the violence in Miami. This drug bust was called the “War on Drugs”. . Coletta Youngers chapter “Collateral Damage: the U. S. War on Drugs and its impact on Democracy in the Andes, focuses on the American Governments response to the cocaine boom.  According to Gootenberg, “cocaine barely existed as an illicit drug” before 1945, but “by the mid-1960s,” the flow of cocaine from South to North America “topped hundreds of kilos yearly” (Gootenberg 133). Youngers adds that the strategy of combating drugs by taking actions in “source countries” (where the drugs are produced), begun in 1989 with the “Andean Initiative” of president George H. W. Bush, has had extremely negative impact on democracy and regional stability in Latin America.

This film offers audiences a realistic view of the cocaine culture in Miami from its inception to its demise and the impact it left behind. It does not shy away from the fact that the city built up by drugs eventually turned on itself because of drugs. In that way it is very similar to other films we have seen this semester in which the cycle of violence, or corruption is never really broken just delayed or transferred somewhere else.