300 word discussion response matthew wk 6

300 word discussion response, 2 sources.

1. Prior to the infamous Colombian drug cartels, there was a period from 1947 to 1964 where the ground work was laid for the future cocaine empires. Prior to World War II, the United States had banned cocaine and was busy preaching its dangers to the international community, although demand remained in Europe. The end of the World War led to the United States occupation of Europe and its power in the newly formed United Nations, which resulted in the disappearance of the legitimate market for cocaine and coca. This market which had been the primary means of income for many living in the Andes region of South America.

Although the first documented case of smuggling cocaine into America was recorded in 1939, the practice was described as opportunistic and would not become a criminal enterprise until the late 1940’s. It is believed that by 1948, cocaine was largely available in South America. Cocaine produced in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, could be purchased for $200 per gram of pure cocaine by traffickers who were typically sailors working aboard legitimate ships who could bring the cocaine into the U.S. without being searched. The opportunistic smuggling soon gave way to organized criminal enterprises who sought out to import cocaine into the United States for a profit. It is claimed that by 1949 the “Balarezo Gang” were trafficking 50 kilograms of pure cocaine in a month.

In April of 1949, the last of the legal cocaine production factories closed their doors. But many believe that while the licensed factories had closed, many of the owners and chemists set up under ground operations in basements and garages. But cocaine really started to grow in the 1950’s with the Bolivian revolution. A lack of government and law and order allowed for production of cocaine to go on unchecked. Loose smuggler corridors sprang up across Chile, Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina, linking Latin American cities with urban drug scenes (Gootenburg, 2017, Pg 2). With Chile bordering the majority of the western coast of South America, the Bolivians needed access to the Chilean ports in order to ship their cocaine to the United States via the Pacific Ocean. Cuban being less than 100 miles from the United States, served as a prime staging location for cocaine that was destined for America.

In the 1960’s, routes for trafficking cocaine from the South American countries changed. Although Miami, Florida was established as prime city for the smuggling of cocaine, activity in Cuba dissipated. This was caused by a combination of factors including the Mafia’s rejection of business with Cuba, and the Cuban Revolution. With the revolution, many Cuban cocaine producers fled Cuba and relocated to Mexico, re-establishing their labs. This fact combined with Mexico’s border with the United States made it a prime country for smuggling cocaine into the U.S. Cocaine smuggled into Mexico from South America would have to pass through Colombia. Colombians and Mexicans both became tired of trafficking other people’s drugs, and soon realized the potential to grow coca and refine it in to cocaine in their own countries. This is how the stage was set for a strong Colombian cocaine cartel.


Gootenberg, P. (2007). The “Pre-Colombian” era of drug trafficking in the Americas: COCAINE, 1945-1965. The Americas, 64(2), 133-176. doi:10.1353/tam.2007.0148

2. It is no secret that Mexican drug cartels are responsible for a large portion of the drugs that have entered into this country over the last 50 years. Drug Cartels for used have acted in defiance of U.S. governments wishes to cease the trafficking of drugs across the border. The first major attempt to suppress Mexican drug smuggling was ordered by President Reagan in 1969 under the name Operation Intercept. The goal of operation intercept was to end drug trafficking across the border by sending thousands of federal agents to the border where every person and vehicle entering into the United States was stopped and searched prior to entry. The goal was to find contraband being smuggled into the U.S., discourage smugglers from making attempts, and to encourage the Mexican government to be more proactive in the enforcement of narcotics manufacturers and traffickers. Any positive effects were erased by the economic impact and diplomatic tensions between the United States and Mexico.

Operation Intercept was ended as a failure, and the United States changed its strategy to one of assistance. The United States increased its financial aid to the Mexican government with hopes that the money would influence the government to work with the U.S. towards its goal of eradicating narcotics. The U.S. also supplied Mexico with technical advisors and equipment that would be required to complete the job.

Operation Condor was the first “War on Drugs” launched in 1977 by the Mexican government with the pressure and assistance of the U.S. government. With assistance from the American Drug Enforcement Agency, the Mexican Army launched a campaign to target the golden triangle, a region of Mexico where 76% of the drugs in Mexico had been produced (University of Wisconsin). But corruption and greed in Mexico would prove to be the down fall of U.S. backed counter drug operations. Many Mexican government officials wanted money from the lucrative drug trade, but at the same time needed to keep the U.S. government happy. The result was many Mexican officials straddling the fence by accepting money from the drug cartels, and doing just enough to keep the U.S. satisfied.

The effectiveness of operation condor continues to be debated. One might argue its importance in U.S. drug policy by escalating to a point of utilizing Mexican military. Since the end of the initial Operation, it was revamped again in the early 2000’s. Although the generations had changed, the problems faced by Operation Condor in the 1980’s did not. Mexican drug cartels with exponentially more power then previous years, now have access to an almost indefinite amount of cash for bribery, and if that fails a well trained and equipped militia which rivals that of many countries.

The United States continues to attempt to stop the Mexican drug cartels through operations and joint ventures with the Mexican police and military. The most famous of which being the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his extradition back to the United States to stand trial. Guzman had previously been arrested and charged by the Mexican government, but Guzman had enough money and power to escape from Mexican custody on two occasions. A joint operation including the U.S. DEA, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Mexican military resulted in Guzman’s capture and extradition back to the United States for trial. This is important because it reiterates that the situation in Mexico has not changed for the better. If anything, the Cartel’s have gained more power. In 2019, Mexican authorities were able to arrest Guzman’s son, but quickly released him. Armed members of Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel assaulted the police station where the son was being held. The Mexican police were no match for the Cartel’s armored vehicles and belt fed automatic weapons. Authorities released Guzman’s son in order to avoid a massacre.


Sieff, K. (2019, October 18). The failed arrest of El Chapo’s son turned a Mexican city into an urban war zone. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/major-gun-bat…

Smith, L. (2018, January 15). How Nixon used the u.s.-mexico drug trade to demonize activists and African Americans. Retrieved from https://timeline.com/how-nixon-used-the-u-s-mexico…

University of Wisconsin. (2008, November 01). “Killing two condors with one Stone: The war on drugs, Counterinsurgency, and the state of siege in northwestern mexico”. Retrieved from https://lacis.wisc.edu/2018/11/01/killing-two-cond…

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