Illicit Threats

Organized crime, drugs, and small arms1

Authored by: Phil Williams

Routledge Handbook of Latin American Security

Print publication date:  July  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415718691
eBook ISBN: 9781315867908
Adobe ISBN: 9781317965091


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Peter Andreas, in his trenchant history of the United States as a ‘smuggler nation,’ reminds us that smuggling has been around for centuries (Andreas 2013). This kind of historical perspective is particularly relevant to Latin America, which, in the last several decades, has become renowned for both the entrepreneurialism and the violence of its drug trafficking organizations. Lance Grahn, in a study of New Granada (or what is now northern Colombia) in the early 18th century, suggested “the better known representatives of modern Colombian and Caribbean smuggling–narcotraffickers, U.S. Drug Enforcement agents, and inner city cocaine addicts–are current symbols of a dynamic economic informality with a long historical tradition” (1997: 3). Moreover, in a comment that has a very modern ring to it, he noted that smuggling “encouraged venality and deepened political corruption, frustrating the legitimate rule of law” (1997: 6). The echoes of these sentiments in the contemporary discourse about corruption and trafficking in Latin America are, if anything, even stronger than the original articulations.

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