DRUG TRAFFICKING AND ORGANIZED CRIME IN THE AMERICAS: MAJOR TRENDS IN THE
TWENTY FIRST CENTURY
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI
CORAL GABLES, FL
NOVEMBER 1, 2010
This essay analyzes the major trends that have characterized the evolution of illicit drug trafficking and organized crime (organized criminal networks) in the Americas over the last quarter of a century, with special emphasis on the principal transformations or adaptations – economic, political and organizational - that have taken place within the region’s illegal drug economy during first decade of the twenty first century. Eight key trends or patterns are highlighted: 1) The globalization of drug consumption; 2) The limited or “partial victories” and unintended consequences of the U.S.-led ‘War on Drugs’, especially in the Andes; 3) The proliferation of areas of drug cultivation and of drug smuggling routes throughout the hemisphere (balloon effects); 4) The dispersion and fragmentation of organized criminal groups or networks within countries and across sub-regions (cockroach effects); 5) The failure of political reform and state-building efforts (deinstitutionalization effects); 6) The inadequacies or failures of U.S. domestic drug and crime control policies (demand control failures); 7) The ineffectiveness of regional and international drug control policies (regulatory failures); 8) The growth in support for harm reduction, decriminalization and legalization policy alternatives (legalization debate).
The Globalization of Drug Consumption
Many Latin American political leaders have long argued that if the U.S. population did not consume so many illegal drugs - if there were not so many American drug addicts and users -, then Latin American countries would not produce large quantities of illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine an d heroin for export and the region would not be plagued by the powerful and well-financed drug trafficking organizations – often called cartels – that have sprung up in the region over the last twenty five years plus. It is certainly accurate to claim that the U.S. A. has been for decades, and remains today, the largest single consumer market for illicit drugs on the planet. Although there is no definitive estimate, the value of al illicit drugs sold annually in the United States may reach as high as US $150 billion. Some $40 billion per year may be spent on cocaine alone.
Nonetheless, Illegal drug use (and/or addiction) is not a uniquely “American” disease, despite the title of David Musto’s famous book on the topic. Over the last decade, the now-27 countries of the European Union have rapidly equaled or surpassed the approximately 6 million regular cocaine users found in the United States. Indeed, levels of cocaine use in the United States have remained roughly steady over the last 10-15 years while cocaine consumption in Europe exploded exponentially during the first decade of the twenty first century. Moreover, the Europeans pay roughly three times as much per gram, ounce, kilo or metric ton as do American consumers. Indeed, the American market has for the last two decades absorbed some 320-350 metric tons of cocaine annually; Europe today is estimated to import some 300-320 metric tons each year, while consuming significantly higher amounts of heroin per capita. Over the last decade or more, the bulk of the heroin consumed in Europe has come from Afghanistan (over 90% of world production), whereas most of the heroin consumed in the United States comes from either Colombia (roughly 2% of word supply) or Mexico (roughly 1.5 % of world supply). Cocaine, in contrast, is produced only in only three countries of the Western hemisphere: Colombia (40-45%, Peru (35-40%) and Bolivia (15-20%). Cocaine is trafficked from these three Andean countries to consumer markets around the globe.
Cocaine consumption is not limited only to advance capitalist markets such as those of the United States and Europe. Cocaine use in Latin America has also skyrocketed over the last decade. Indeed, Latin American consumers are in 2010 estimated to absorb over 200 metric tons of cocaine. Until 2009, Brazil was considered to be the world’s second largest market for cocaine behind only the United States. In its 2010 World Drug report, the United Nation’s reported that Argentina had replaced Brazil as the second biggest cocaine consumer while Brazil was ranked third and Spain was ranked fourth. Cocaine consumption rates in Russia, Easter Europe, and Asia also appear to be increasing rapidly as well.
The dramatic rises in European and South American cocaine consumption specifically have greatly expanded world market demand for this illicit Andean product over the past decade. As a consequence, a pronounced trend toward the proliferation of new global trafficking routes and the increased involvement of criminal trafficking networks originating outside the Andean sub region became increasingly evident.
Partial Victories in the War on Drugs
From the middle of the nineteenth century through the mid-1980s, Peru and Bolivia were the two principal country-suppliers of both coca leaf and of refined cocaine to the U.S., European and other world markets. As of 1985, Peru produced roughly 65% of the world’s supply of coca leaf while Bolivia grew approximately 25% and Colombia 10% or less. With the “partial victories” achieved by the U.S.-led war on drugs in the southern Andes during the late 1980s and early 1990s – specifically, U.S.-financed crop eradication programs in Bolivia’s Chapare under President Victor Paz Estensoro after 1986 (Operation blast Furnace) and Hugo Banzer after 1998 (Plan Dignidad) and Alberto Fujimori’s interruption of the “air bridge” between the Alto Huallaga growing area in Peru and Colombia in the mid-1990s – coca cultivation in the Andes rapidly shifted to Colombia in the mid- and late 1990s. By 2000, Colombia cultivated an estimated 90% of the world’s coca leaf while production in Peru and Bolivia dwindled to historic lows.
In the early 1990s, Colombia’s U.S.-backed all-out war against drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel during the Cesar Gaviria administration lead to Escobar’s death on December 2, 1993, and the rapid dissolution of the Medellin cartel. Subsequent plea bargaining in 1994-5 during the Ernesto Samper administration with the major drug lords of the Cali cartel, specifically the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, catalyzed the dismantling of the Cali cartel. While some large criminal trafficking networks (e.g., the Cartel del Norte del Valle), continued to operate in Colombia in the late 1990s and early 2000s and some 300 plus smaller drug trafficking organizations (known as cartelitos) also surfaced to ply the drug trade, by the late 1990s - basically as an unanticipated and unintended consequence of the demise of the country’s two major cartels –Colombia’s leftwing FARC guerrillas and rightwing AUC paramilitary groups stepped up to fill the vacuum and take over control of coca leaf cultivation throughout Colombia, precipitating increased drug-related violence between these two groups of armed illegal actors, each of whom sought to eliminate the other and to consolidate their territorial control over drug cultivation regions across the country.
As a direct result, levels of drug-fueled violence spiraled out of control in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Indeed, during much of the first decade of the 2000s Colombia became one of the most dangerous and violent countries in the world. In July 2000, the President Clinton and the U.S. government responded by backing the Andres Pastrana administration in its war against run away drug trafficking via the adoption of Plan Colombia. In August 2002, the newly inaugurated Government of Alvaro Uribe received additional drug war assistance from Washington and the Bush administration in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Supported by some 8 billion dollars in U.S. Plan Colombia aid over the decade, by 2010 Colombian President Uribe and his program of “democratic security” had managed to beat back the FARC guerrillas, demobilized many – if not all – of the country’s paramilitary bands and substantially reduce the country’s astronomically high levels of drug-related violence.
Despite the substantial achievement of Plan Colombia and the Uribe, administration, however, as of 2010 Colombia remained the principal source of coca leaf and refined cocaine in the Andes and drug-related violence and criminality appeared to be once again on the rise. Most importantly, clearly as an unintended consequence of the U.S.-backed war on drugs in Colombia, the locus of organized criminal involvement in cocaine trafficking gradually shifted northwards form Colombia to Mexico. As the Uribe administration succeeded in Colombia, the major drug trafficking networks in Mexico took advantage of the vacuum left in the drug trade to seize control of cocaine smuggling operations into the United States. As a consequence, drug-related violence and criminality shifted northwards into Mexican territory as various Mexican trafficking organizations vied for control over the still highly lucrative smuggling trade from Colombia and the Andes into the large and profitable U.S. market.
Thus, Mexico’s current drug-related bloodbath is, in part, directly attributable to the partial victory in the war on drugs achieved in Colombia in recent years via plan Colombia. If the U.S.-backed Merida Initiative presently being implemented in Mexico achieves results similar to those of Plan Colombia, it will not halt drug trafficking or end organized crime in Mexico or the region. The most likely outcome is that it will drive both further underground in Mexico while pushing many smuggling activities and criminal network operations into neighboring countries such as Guatemala and Honduras or back to Colombia and the Andes.
Proliferation of Areas of Cultivation and Smuggling Routes
The 2010 World Drug report indicates that Colombia has successfully reduced the total number of hectares under coca cultivation within its national territory since 2008, although it has still not returned to pre-2000 levels. How large the reductions in coca cultivation in the past few years have actually been in Colombia is a controversial topic, plagued by inadequate data, methodological problems and major uncertainties regarding actual however gradually, in Colombia, coca cultivation in both Peru and Bolivia has once again begun to expand. Most observers believe that overall coca leaf production and cocaine availability remain roughly on par with 2000 levels and well above those of 1990 or 1995. Evidently, the balloon effect that allowed coca cultivation to shift north from Bolivia and Peru to Colombia in the late 1980s and early 1990s continues to operate as cultivation moves back into Peru and Bolivia from Colombia at the end of the first decade of the 2000s. Various observers have noted the possibility that the tropical variety of coca – known in Portuguese as Epadu – might well balloon coca cultivation from its traditional growing areas on the eastern slopes of the Andes into Brazil and elsewhere in the Amazon basin in coming years, if ongoing or renewed eradication efforts prove successful in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
The2010 UN report indicates a 10-20% declineinf coca production in Colombia during 2008 and 2009. But enthusiasm regarding such statistics should be tempered by realism. First, it is important to note that year-to-year variations are commonplace; declines over several years are required to identify enduring trends. Second, the UN statistics are approximations along a range rather than firm data points; it is entirely possible that this year’s or last year’s UN reports underestimate the real levels of production. Third, innovations in more productive hybrid plants, yields-per-hectare and processing can produce higher levels of cocaine than anticipated by the UN experts. Finally, the ongoing decentralization of cultivation in Colombia makes accurate mapping of the total numbers of hectares under cultivation a very problematic endeavor.
Such caveats aside, the key reason that Colombia appears to have witnessed a significant decline in coca production in 2008 and 2009 is that the Uribe government moved away from its almost exclusive (U.S.-backed) reliance on aerial spraying to a more effective mixture of spraying and manual eradication linked to comprehensive alternative development programs in key coca growing areas such as La Macarena. In combination with the weakening of FARC control in vast stretches of rural Colombia and the partial demobilization of the paramilitary bands engaged in drug trafficking, 2008/09 marked the beginning of an important decline after at least three years of steady increases in total production. To sustain this decline will require that Colombia continue its manual eradication efforts and that it provide additional funds for well-designed and executed alternative development programs in coca growing areas throughout the country.
Meanwhile, increases in coca cultivation in both Peru and Bolivia suggest that the focus of U.S. attention and resources on Colombia has led to the neglect of coca cultivation in those traditional coca growing countries in the central Andes. To forestall a recurrence of the balloon effect – pushing cultivation out of one country only to have it reappear in others – the Obama administration will have to seek to reestablish a workable relation with the government of president Evo Morales in Bolivia and find effective ways to combat the resurgence of Sendero Luminoso and coca cultivation in Alan Garcia’s Peru. Failure to do either will simply shift coca production once again back to Peru and Bolivia thereby nullifying any real progress made in reducing coca cultivation in Colombia over the medium term.
In the 1980s, largely as a result of the formation of the U.S. government’s South Florida Task Force in 1982 – headed by then-Vice President G. H. W. Bush – the established Caribbean routes used by the Medellin and Cali cartels were essentially closed down be American law enforcement and military operations. They were quickly replaced over the 1980s and early 1990s with new routes that used Panama and Central America, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Corridor to reach Mexico and then cross from Mexico into United States. When the Mexican cartels took over from Medellin and Cali in the late 1990s, the Pacific Corridor became the principal smuggling route northwards from Colombia to the United States, although the Gulf route also remained active.
Since December 1, 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, with Washington’s active assistance since 2008 via the Merida Initiative, has waged an intense military campaign against Mexico major drug cartels. Although not by any means successful in eliminating Mexico key drug trafficking groups as of 2010, Calderon’s militarization of the drug war has unquestionably made smuggling across the U.S.-Mexican border from Mexico more dangerous and expensive than in past years. As a result, some of the Mexican trafficking organizations have begun to move into Central America – especially Guatemala and Honduras – to take advantage of these much weaker states to conduct their smuggling operations.
There is also abundant evidence available indicating increased use of both Venezuelan and Ecuadorian territory by Colombian traffickers to replace the increasingly problematic Mexico routes. Venezuela is a jumping off point for smuggling through the Caribbean to the east coast of the United States or across the Atlantic through West Africa into Europe. Venezuela also is used for drug flights into Honduras or Guatemala where the shipments are then transferred to trucks and transported by land across the Guatemalan-Mexican border northwards to the United States.
The balloon effects produced by the partial victories in the war on drugs on both drug cultivation and drug smuggling routes are self evident. Over the past twenty five years and more, the war on drugs conducted by the United States and its various Latin American and Caribbean allies has succeeded repeatedly in shifting coca cultivation from one area to another in the Andes and in forcing frequent changes in smuggling routes. But it has proven unable to disrupt seriously, much less stop permanently, either production or trafficking in the hemisphere. Worst of all, the traffickers constant, successful adaptations to law enforcement measures designed to end their activities have lead to the progressive contamination of more and more countries in the region by the drug trade and its attendant criminality and violence.
Dispersion and Fragmentations of Criminal Drug Trafficking Organizations
The differential insertion of individual countries into the political economy of drug trafficking in the hemisphere has produced a variety of forms or types of intermediation between peasant growers of illicit crops and consumers. In Bolivia, the presence of peasant cooperatives in the countryside since the MNR revolution of 1952 produced coca grower associations and generally inhibited the rise of either criminal organizations or guerrilla movements as intermediaries, although the Bolivian military itself has on various occasions fulfilled this role. In Peru, the absence of strong grass roots associations among peasant growers opened the way for both elements of the country’s military apparatus (Vladimiro Montesinos) and guerrilla organizations (Sendero Luminoso) to perform the role of intermediaries or traffickers. In Colombia, the absence of both peasant organizations and military intermediaries paved the way for the rise of major criminal organizations such as the Medellin and Cali cartels to fill the role. The demise of the major cartels opened the way for illegal armed actors such as the FARC and the paramilitaries. In Mexico and Central America, elements of the military and/or police have sometimes performed the functions of intermediation in previous decades, but in the 1990s and 2000s these countries have followed the Colombian pattern of criminal intermediation owing to the absence strong grower associations.
In terms of criminal organizations or criminal trafficking networks, Colombia and Mexico provide the two most important examples over the last twenty five years. In Colombia, the rise and fall of Medellin and Cali (and subsequently the Norte del Valle cartel) vividly illustrate the perils and vulnerabilities of large, hierarchical criminal trafficking organizations, especially when they attempt to confront the state openly. Both major cartels in Colombia were hierarchically structured and proved to be vulnerable targets for Colombian and international law enforcement agencies. In the wake of Medellin and Cali, Colombia witnessed a rapid fragmentation and dispersion of criminal networks that have proven far more difficult for law enforcement authorities to track down and dismantle than their larger and more notorious predecessors. Although there may be counter-tendencies leading to re-concentration among criminal trafficking organizations in Colombia today (e.g., los Rastrojos, las Aguilas Negras ), the basic lesson to emerge from Colombia appears to be that smaller criminal networks are less vulnerable From the Colombian state’s perspective, such organization are less threatening because they do not have the capacity to threaten state security directly.
In Mexico, as in Colombia in the 1980s and early 1990s, cocaine profits appear to have energized the country’s major criminal networks and unleashed a wave of violence among criminal organizations in that country intended to strengthen and consolidate their control of key smuggling routes that is still playing itself out. Nonetheless, Mexico’s criminal trafficking groups do appear to be slowly following the Colombian pattern of dispersion and fragmentation, although the evidence is not yet conclusive. In 2000, the Tijuana cartel (Arrellano Felix family) and the Juarez cartel (Carrillo Fuentes family) were the two largest and most dominant drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. Since 2000, after the Vicente Fox administration first went after Tijuana and then Juarez, Mexico has seen the rise of at least five new major trafficking organizations and a host of smaller, lesser known groups: Sinaloa, Gulf, Familia Michocana, Beltran-Leyva and Zetas. This dispersion of criminal networks in Mexico may well represent the beginning of the kind of fragmentation observed in Colombia in the 1990s. If it does, the trend would b e warmly welcomed by Mexican governing authorities because it would portend a considerable diminution in the capacity of organized criminal networks in Mexico to directly challenge state authority and national security.
A key reason why some an analysts do not accept the fragmentation thesis in contemporary Mexico relates directly to the emergence of a new criminal network model – the Sinaloa cartel. Unlike its predecessors and current rivals in Mexico, the Sinaloa cartel is less hierarchical and more federative in its organizational structure. Its principal leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has forged a new type of “federation” that gives greater autonomy (and profits) to affiliated groups. To date, Sinaloa, also known as the Federation, seems to be winning the war against its rivals, although its fight against the Zetas (a paramilitary organization) is proving to be prolonged, costly and bloody. It is conceivable that the Sinaloa model will prove more survivable – better for business - than other criminal trafficker organizational models in Mexico, but the jury is still out.
Under pressure from Mexican and U.S. law enforcement, Mexican trafficker organizations have, since the mid-2000s if not before, sought to move at least part of their smuggling operations from Mexico into neighboring countries. Guatemala and Honduras are currently targets for both Sinaloa and the Zetas. The upsurge in drug-related violence in both of these Central American nations is closely related to these shifts in operational bases. This trend, observable throughout the hemisphere, is sometimes labeled the “cockroach” effect, because it is reminiscent of the scurrying of cockroaches out of a dirty kitchen into other places to avoid detection after a light has been turned on them. Closely linked to the “balloon” effect, the “cockroach” effect refers specifically to the displacement of criminal networks from one city/state/region to another within a given country or from one country to another in search of safer havens and more pliable state authorities.
Failure of Political Reform or State Building
States determine the form or type of organized crime that can operate and flourish with a given national territory; Criminal organizations do not determine the type of state, although they certainly can deter or inhibit political reform efforts at all levels of a political system from local to national. Advanced capitalist democracies - from the United States to Europe to Japan - exhibit wide variations in the types of organized crime that they generate and/or tolerate. The United States, for example, has eliminated the Italian mafia model and seen it replaced by fragmented and widely dispersed domestic criminal organizations, many affiliated with immigrant communities. Europe is characterized by a similar evolution of organized crime groups affiliated with immigrant populations. Japan, in contrast, has coexisted with the Yakuza, a more corporate style criminal network. In China, state capitalism coexists with the Chinese triads. In Russia, the Putin government, in effect, subordinated and incorporated various elements of the Russian mafia as para-state organizations.
In Colombia, the paramilitary organizations, deeply involved in drug trafficking, were linked directly to both state institutions and to specific political parties. In Mexico, the formerly dominant PRI party developed almost tributary relations with organized crime groups. When the PRI’s almost 71 –year monopoly over political power was broken at the national level in 2000 by the victory of PAN presidential candidate Vicente Fox, the old lines of tribute/bribery broke down as well and unleashed a wave of internecine violence among trafficking organizations as they struggled among themselves for control of cocaine transit through their country.
Transitions from authoritarian regimes to more open and democratic forms of governance in Latin America, as in Russia and Eastern Europe, are particularly problematic, because the old, authoritarian institutional controls collapse or are swept away but cannot be easily or quickly replaced by new, democratic forms of control, at least in the short term. Mexico is experiencing precisely such a transition. The old institutions – e.g., police, courts, prisons, intelligence agencies, parties, elections, – no longer work. Indeed, they are patently dysfunctional. Nevertheless, no new institutional mechanisms have arisen to replace them. Moreover, reform efforts can be, and often are, stymied or derailed entirely by institutional corruption and criminal violence intended to limit or undermine state authority and the rule of law.
Such observations do not constitute arguments against democratization. Rather they highlight challenges and obstacles along the road to democratization that are frequently overlooked or ignored altogether. Few democratic theorists have seriously examined the problems for democratic transitions that emanate from organized and entrenched criminal networks. In the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, such neglect may well imperil political stability and democracy itself. Rather than democratic consolidation, the consequence of ignoring organized crime and its corrosive effects may way be institutional decay or democratic de-institutionalization.
The Inflexibility and Ineffectiveness of Regional and International Drug Control Policies (Regulatory Failures)
Reflecting the hegemonic influence of the United States over international drug policy during the post World War II period, the United Nations (UN) Organization of Drug and Crime Control (ODCC) and the Organization of American States (OAS) CICAD have both faithfully reproduced the U.S. prohibitionist regime at the multilateral level. The UN’s approach to drug control (like that of the OAS) severely limits the flexibility of responses at the level of member-states because it effectively rules out any possible experimentation with legalization and/or decriminalization. Both the UN and the OAS part from the assumption that all illicit drugs are “evil” and must be prohibited and suppressed. In practice, the UN-OAS-U.S. unwavering prohibitionist strategy has dominated international discourse on drug control and prevented individual countries from experimenting with alternative approaches (or forced them to ignore or defy their UN treaty obligations regarding narcotics control).
For example, both the UN, the OAS and the U.S. have, in effect, systematically rejected Bolivian President Evo Morales’ declared policy of fostering traditional and commercial uses of legally grown coca leaf while prevent the processing of coca leaf into cocaine in that country. Similarly, both the U.S. federal government and the UN condemned the November 2010 California ballot initiative that sought (and failed) to legalized marijuana cultivation and commercialization in that state. It is entirely possible that, had the California Proposition 9 initiative on marijuana been approved by the state’s voters it would have run afoul of both US federal statutes and America’s UN treaty obligations.
In practice, the UN prohibitionist inclination has meant that there is no international backing for options other than the current “War on Drugs”, no matter what collateral damage is incurred in the process. The ten year UN (UNGASS) review of international drug control policies (1998-2008) predictably concluded that the current prohibitionist UN policies currently in place were the best and only real strategic option available moving forward and generated no significant alterations in international drug control policies and practices, despite evident and growing inconformity among some member states and many independent analysts.
The Failure of U.S. Drug Control Policies
While the United States has managed to stabilize demand for most illicit drugs at home, it most certainly has not eliminated American demand for illicit drugs or the profits associated with supplying the huge U.S. market. Demand control has routinely been underfunded by Washington while primary emphasis has almost automatically been accorded to expensive, but ultimately ineffective, supply-sidecontrol strategies. Analysis of the reasons behind the U.S. insistence on supply over demand control strategies lies beyond the scope of this essay.
The consequences of Washington’s strategic choices are, however, obvious. Washington has demanded that the countries of the region follow its lead in the war on drugs and has often sanctioned those nations that do not “fully cooperate”. U.S. insistence on such a policy approach has not only led to overall failure in the war on drugs over the last twenty five years plus, it has been counterproductive for both U.S. and individual Latin American country interests. The price that Colombia has paid for its role in the war on drugs has been high in both blood and treasure. The price that Mexico is being asked to pay today is as high or higher. The high costs associated with failure have generated a reaction to the U.S. strategy both at home and abroad and produced a new debate over alternatives to American prohibitionist approaches such as harm reduction, decriminalization and legalization.
The Search for Alternatives: The Debate over Legalization
Some Latin American analysts anticipate that passage of California’s Proposition 19, which would legalize the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana in the state, on November 2, 2010, will signal the beginning of the end of the U. S.-led war on drugs and allow Mexico and other countries in the region to move away from the “prohibitionist” strategy that has generated so much drug-related violence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years. Many Latin American political leaders, however, openly oppose the legalization of marijuana and stridently argue against the legalization or decriminalization of harder drugs.
Whether one is for or against California’s Proposition 19, there are sound reasons to be skeptical of the real impact of marijuana legalization in California.. First, even if the initiative does pass, there are likely to be U.S. federal government challenges that could delay implementation of the new law for years. Second, legalization of marijuana, if and when it occurs, will not address the issues – production, trafficking and distribution – raised by harder drugs. Criminal gangs in Mexico and elsewhere in the region will most likely move away from marijuana to deeper involvement in the still-illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines; organized crime will continue to flourish and drug-related violence will continue unabated. In the long run, legalization or decriminalization of illicit drugs offers the only real solutions to drug-related crime and violence in Mexico and around the globe, even if addiction rates go up as they did with the end of U. S. alcohol prohibition. But in the short -and medium-run, Latin American countries will have to address their own seriously flawed institutions; ending long-standing corrupt practices, undertaking police, judicial, prison and other key institutional reforms, and insuring greater electoral accountability are reforms that cannot wait for legalization to take place at some nebulous point in the future. Legalization of marijuana is no panacea. It will not eliminate the many other types of organized crime that operate with virtual impunity in Latin America and the caribbean today.