Cocaine Cowboys

This week’s movie, Cocaine Cowboys talks about the evolution of the spread of the cocaine trade in Miami. It talks about the many contributing factors and the way it spread from a small trade to a huge multi-billion dollar industry. It also talked about the violence that erupted as cause of it. Then it discussed how they cracked down on it, and was able to slow the trade down. The articles that coincide with this movie support it but also show that the trade has not died and that the United States has taken unethical measures to try to eradicate this problem.

“Washington has slid down the slipper slope of increasing involvement in yet another quagmire in Latin America.”

Another problem that is discussed in this article is when the United States started trying to stop the drug problem at the source. But, through trying to do this many problems have arisen. In Coletta Youngers’ article “Collateral Damage: The US ‘War on Drugs,’” the author discusses the impact of the drug trafficking in the cities of the Andes.  This ties very well into the movie because the main city they discussed was Medellin and the trade out of this city. The other part of the argument that was not discussed in the movie is the impact of the United States policies to combat the International Drug Trade. The wake that these policies have made in some countries has been extreme.  One of the biggest impacts that Youngers’ states is that by the United States having a strong anti-drug military presence in the Andes it undermines local and national civilian-military relations in those countries on a good level. To the local population it is as if their country is being occupied for it’s inadequacy for their drug trafficking problems. It can also make the civilian’s distrust even more their own military because of the types of tactics their military are forced to take against them. This in turn stops the spread of democratic governments after years of militaristic governments. Even worse, the United States is helping to fund militaries that are corrupt and have extreme human rights violations. This puts the United States in a very bad position. One part that comes up in the article that has to do with the movie is that the Medellin cartel was cracked down upon in the movie was replaced by another cartel the Cali cartel. Once that was taken out it became small regional oriented trafficking. This shows that although they are able to get it once, it will always come back. Surprisingly, the cocaine trade has helped the economies of these countries. While not being a positive enforcer of the economy, it has brought about lucrative farming and employment opportunities. This is spoken about in the movie how farmers can make a lot of money by farming the leaves for cocaine. Even with efforts by the US Government to try to put money into the economies of countries that are destabilized by the eradication of Cocaine it still debases the economy significantly. Also, one point made by Youngers is that there is no way to measure success in the war on drugs.

“You will recall that over the years Manuel Noriega in Panama and I have developed a fairly good relationship.”

Another source that was in the reading for this week was declassified documents that show connections between Contras that were used during the United States back Contra War in Nicaragua in the 1980s. What is the most shocking is these documents include documents from NSC aide and Iran-contra figure Oliver North that shows that they had known knowledge of the connections between the contras and drug trafficking. One example of this is that an April 1, 1985 memo explains how two new commanders have either past or present history with drug trafficking. Another even more startling note was one of February 10, 1986, Michael Palmer who is one of the largest marijuana traffickers in the United States was given $300,000.000 to ferry supplies to the contras. This is an extreme sum especially when his economic exploits were very well known. There were also suspicions that drug money was being used to fund these United States backed contras. The United States was building a relationship with Manuel Noriega. In the documentary, Noriega is responsible for taking the money of the drug traffickers and keeping it in the bank for them. Even this alone shows that the United States was either willing to turn a blind eye to what was going on or was not doing their research. In one message sent by Oliver North to Reagan National security advisor John Poindexter he says that Noriega wants the United States to help him clean up his image.

Till next week,