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The Latin American Drug Trade

The Latin American Drug Trade: Scope, Dimensions, Impact, and Response

Peter Chalk
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 112
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  • Book Info
    The Latin American Drug Trade
    Book Description:

    Transnational crime remains a particularly serious problem in Latin America, with most issues connected to the drug trade. There are several relevant roles that the U.S. Air Force can and should play in boosting Mexico's capacity to counter drug production and trafficking, as well as further honing and adjusting its wider counternarcotics effort in Latin America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-5205-6
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    Transnational crime remains a particularly serious problem in Latin America, affecting numerous states both in and beyond the region and having severe repercussions for political, economic, and human security. Although a range of issues confront policymakers and decisionmakers, most are, in some way or another, connected with the drug trade. This particular threat has emerged as a prominent feature on the U.S. national security agenda, reflecting the emergence of new groups involved in production and trafficking, the development of more-sophisticated smuggling methods, and the sharp rise of intercartel violence to the immediate south of the U.S. border. In Colombia and,...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Production and Trafficking Routes
    (pp. 3-14)

    Colombia currently accounts for the vast bulk of cocaine produced in Latin America and remains the principal supplier for both the United States (accounting for 90 percent of consumption) and the worldwide market (accounting for 80 percent of consumption).¹ In 2009, 116,000 hectares (ha) of coca leaf were cultivated in the country, yielding an estimated 270 metric tons (MT) of pure cocaine (see Table 2.1).²

    Two other important cocaine sources exist in Latin America: Peru (cultivation concentrated in Alto Huallaga, Apurimac-Ene, and La Convención y Lares) and Bolivia (cultivation concentrated in Chapare, the Yungas of La Paz, and Apolo). In...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Main Players
    (pp. 15-32)

    FARC currently represents the principal narco-player in Colombia. The group was established in 1966 under the leadership of Manuel Marulanda (alias “Sureshot”) with the purported aim of seizing national power through a protracted people’s war—although the bulk of its agenda has tended to focus on more pragmatic goals, such as land redistribution, reform of the security forces, and empowerment of the peasant classes. The organization is estimated to have around 9,000 combatants (2009 figure) and control of seven regional blocs (see Table 3.1) that oversee an estimated 71 fronts across the country.¹ In addition, it has an available reinforcement...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Trafficking Vessels
    (pp. 33-38)

    More than 80 percent of the cocaine that arrives in the United States, either directly or via Mexico, is shipped from Latin America by means of noncommercial maritime conveyance.¹ Three main vessels currently predominate the eastern Pacific and Caribbean corridors that make up this route: fishing trawlers, go-fasts, and self-propelled semisubmersibles (SPSSs).

    Up until 2006, most Latin American cocaine and heroin was moved direct to Mexico in single consignments. Deepwater fishing trawlers were the favored vessels for these shipments, not least because of their sophisticated navigation and communication technologies. In most cases, drugs would be concealed in legitimate cargo, packed...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Impact
    (pp. 39-58)

    The Latin American drug trade has had a pervasive and insidious impact that has affected a wide spectrum of national, regional, and even international security interests. In Colombia, revenue from the production and trafficking of heroin and cocaine has provided FARC with sufficient operational capital to maintain an active war footing in its ongoing conflict against Bogotá. Although the organization does not pose a strategic threat to the central government, its activities have undermined popular confidence in the administration’s ability to project a concerted territorial presence, guarantee public security, and maintain a (legitimate) monopoly of violence—all key components of...

  14. CHAPTER SIX U.S. Responses
    (pp. 59-66)

    In moving to mitigate the Latin American cocaine trade and its attendant negative impacts, the United States has focused the bulk of its attention on (external) supply disruption rather than (internal) demand reduction. Until at least 2008, the main target of Washington’s counternarcotics assistance was Colombia. Over the past ten years, support has included, among other things, the transfer of ground-based radar systems, helicopter troop carriers, and various forms of heavy artillery; the institution of in-country training programs aimed at augmenting coastal surveillance and interdiction, port security, containerized cargo inspections, and high-speed pursuit tactics; the deployment of U.S. special forces...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Implications and Recommendations for the U.S. Air Force
    (pp. 67-70)

    Although the Latin American drug trade remains primarily a law enforcement issue that is dealt with through various assistance programs run by the departments of State and Justice,¹ managing the problem does have direct implications for the USAF. For Colombia and, increasingly, Mexico, Washington is including antinarcotics support as an integral feature of FID, which is managed by the Pentagon and includes specific provision for the USAF. Critical assistance is channeled through Air Forces Southern (AFSOUTH) as articulated by U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and centers most notably on the provision of Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft (and associated tanker...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 71-88)