Brazil has also become a key drug
consumption country, and Argentina’s
per capita consumption has come
to equal that of the United States.
on the right track. In the short term, reducing violence is urgent. In the absence
of security, civil society risks becoming
completely eviscerated and subject to
domination by the DTOs, further weakening the state.
Efforts by Mexican DTOs to corrupt
state institutions and dominate society
has also spilled over into Central American countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras and El
Salvador. These countries already suffered from deeply
corrupt and ineffective state institutions. Although drug
violence is rarely as spectacular as in Mexico, crime-related violence in Central America has greatly increased,
and already-weak state institutions are being systematically withered by the DTOs. Moreover, society is
alienated from or indifferent to the state because it has
systematically failed to address its various concerns. Local drug trafficking groups and youth gangs are being
drawn into organized crime such as drug trafficking
by both the crime groups and the state that uses them
to suppress political opposition. In Haiti, non-state actors, such as the chimères (a term often used to refer to
supporters of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide),
are not only deeply implicated in the drug trade, they
also serve as the only socioeconomic and “
rule-and-or-der” providers to their neighborhoods.
Facing nonexistent or very weak state institutions, the
DTOs are corrupting their way into political power in
these countries and buying off the law enforcement.
This survey is by no means exhaustive. In Latin America, Brazil’s drug gangs, such as the Co- mando Vermelho, the Primerio Comando da Capital and the Terceiro Comando da Capital, dominate life in Rio’s favelas and São Paulo ‘s
shantytowns. Over the past few years, Rio has also seen
the emergence of militias that combat the drug gangs
and purport to suppress drug trafficking even while
monopolizing control over other illegal and informal
economies and taking over the favelas. Brazil has also
become a key drug consumption country, and Argentina’s per capita consumption has come to equal that of
the United States. Venezuela has become a key transshipment center for drugs originating in Colombia.
As the taste for cocaine has expanded in Europe, the
demand for cocaine in the U. S. has declined due to the
aging of hardcore users. Meanwhile, Latin American
DTOs have increasingly sought to develop West Africa
as a key transshipment center for trafficking to Europe.
Efforts against the drug trade will not be effec- tive as long as efforts to reduce global demand continue to be underemphasized. Although President Barack Obama’s administration has publicly committed itself to reducing dem-mand, its latest drug budget has only modestly increased
resources for prevention and treatment. Moreover, demand reduction efforts can no longer focus solely or
dominantly on the U. S. and Western Europe. Brazil, Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran have become as strong, if
not stronger consuming countries than the West. The
Obama administration deserves recognition for reinstating demand reduction abroad as an important pillar of U.S. counternarcotics policies.
Nonetheless, supply-side measures are important. Not
because they can stem the global drug trade, but because
both the government and society suffer when criminal
groups and belligerents outcompete the state in state-making. But for the government to win in this state-making competition, it needs to understand the complex role
that illicit economies play and the way large segments
of society can depend on them for basic survival and enhancement of their human security. Instead of simply
suppressing illicit economies through repressive means,
governments need to adopt multifaceted responses that
employ law enforcement and the judiciary in ways that
enhance security and that provide legal economic and legal public goods—alternatives to those offered by the illegal economies, criminal groups and belligerents. Doing
this effectively requires understanding the institutional,
economic, political, and social gaps and weaknesses that
criminals and criminal syndicates exploit.