Princeton University Library Catalog

Breaking the Cocaine Curse: An Analysis of Factors that Lead to Violence in the Cocaine Markets of Latin America

Keller, Alec Daniel [Browse]
Senior thesis
Ramsay, Kristopher [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Politics [Browse]
Class year:
109 pages
Summary note:
Latin America is one of the most dangerous regions in the world with homicide rates as high as places in war-torn sub-Saharan Africa. A major contributor to the violence in several Latin American countries is the illegal drug trade. Drugs are produced in the Andean regions of several South American countries and trafficked up through Central America and Mexico to the United States or through the Caribbean to Western Europe. Despite the large presence of drugs in most Latin American countries, violence manifests itself in select countries over select time periods. The goal of this paper is to identify the factors that cause some countries to have higher drug violence rates than others. The three main hypotheses this paper presents are that drug violence is affected by corruption, policing tactics, and population density along drug routes. I argue that corruption can lead to violence in situations where countries have experienced high levels of corruption and then take swift action to remove the corruption. I also posit that United States backed, supply side interdiction and eradication policies that result in the domestic use of military force, the aerial spraying of the coca crop, and the targeting of head cartel leaders lead to violence in the countries that enact them. Finally, I contend that higher population densities along drug routes leads to more drug related violence. To evaluate these hypotheses, I conduct a quantitative data analysis and qualitative case studies. The population density hypothesis is supported by the quantitative approach, as it is statistically significant. It is also shown to have practical implications as population density considerably affects drug violence. The corruption hypothesis is not supported by the quantitative or qualitative approach. However, the case studies do show that the United States’ involvement is connected to the implementation of policies promoting the domestic use of military forces to fight drug trafficking organizations. These policies, in turn, are correlated with high levels of drug violence. These conclusions imply that drug violence is partly due to government action and partly due to innate features of the drug trade in specific countries. They also show that governments should aim to abolish the militarization of domestic police forces and try to divert drug trafficking routes away from densely populated areas.