Cocaine Cowbys (2006)

The film Cocaine Cowboys documents the illegal cocaine drug trade and smuggling operations in Miami, Florida during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Directed and produced by Billy Corben, Cocaine Cowboys uses interviews from convicted drug smugglers and murderers, lawyers and law enforcement and in detail provides many main events that led to the rise and fall of some of the biggest drug smuggling operations in history. It is important to note that the film most indefinitely acknowledges what Miami was like before and after the illegal cocaine trade. The trade without a doubt brought plenty of violence, corruption, and chaos to a once sleepy touristy town but it also helped in many positive ways. Mainly because of the “don’t ask” policy (e.g. paid in cash for a $100,000 car), many legal business were able to boom during this period and enable a city in the midst of a national economic decline to catapult. Today, Miami is considered the richest city in the U.S. and has become a central leader in commerce, finance, “legal” international trade, architecture, entertainment, and cultural diversity.

Although, Miami can be looked as a prosperous thriving city, there are still many illicit, underground and behind the scenes activities taking place. Many believe that Miami today, could still be a wonderful city without all the devastating crimes and deaths that took place within that 20 year period. In the article “Collateral Damage: The U.S.“War on Drugs” and Its Impact on Democracy in the Andes” by Coletta A. Youngers, the illegal drug trade and the problems it creates South America and the U.S. are examined. A main point the article establishes is that the U.S. and there “War on Drugs” has made it increasingly difficult for smaller Andean countries like Peru, Bolivia, and Columbia to gain a steady footing on there civilian-military and government relations. This point is back up by many examples where the U.S. has contradicted themselves, becoming involved in counterinsurgency operations and providing millions of dollars to “right winged paramilitary groups responsible for the majority of human rights abuses being committed in that country today” (Youngers pg.128). The article also establishes that cultivation of the coca plant, drug trade routes, and drug cartels have increased in number since the war was launched. Youngers states, “Coca production can be compared to a balloon: squeezing it in one area mierely causes it to pop up somewhere else.” This is an extremely interesting statement. It seems as though this “war” is one that is ineffective and can be seen as one that is counter unproductive. The more money that is put into stopping the production and trade of cocaine or other illegal drugs, the more effort there is to continue its production and distribution.

A journal “The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations”, which is a compiled list of declassified documents from hand written note-books of Oliver North, electronic messages from high ranking officials from the Reagan administration and memos from the FBI and DEA who dealt with the Contra war efforts, the documents analyze the truthfulness of a foreign drug policy scandal and official knowledge of drug trafficking operations and the protection of known drug traffickers. The topic of corruption by the U.S. government in dealing with the supply and distribution of illegal drugs into the streets of the United States has become a widely recognize and “possible” problem that has occurred or still may be occurring in the U.S. today. The “Contras” which were considered resistance groups in Nicaragua and other parts of Central America, which for the most part were aimed in the war against the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. In one of the documents contained in the journal it is stated, “The two agents said that in 1985, Oliver North had wanted to take $1.5 million in Cartel bribe money that was carried by a DEA informant and give it to the contras.” Although this was never proven, the Kerry committee concluded that many senior U.S. policy makers believed that using drug money to help fund the Contra’s rebel war efforts was not a bad idea. Ultimately, just from this statement, it is impossible for one not to question the motives behind this. It seems as though for many, including the U.S., for a more than powerful nation to get what it wants or to get things to go the way they want them too, a system of full intelligence is in place and then the process of picking and choosing on which or when to intervene or withdraw, although it may be against everything a good moral American citizen should believe, is put in place.

Cocaine Cowboys provides a very detailed look into the systems, operations, and lives that were involved in the biggest and most notorious illegal cocaine trade this nation has seen. Overall, this was a very well put together documentary and rises many questions as to how and why things have gotten be the way they are, not just in the city of Miami or the U.S., but the world as well.