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International Relations Scholar Warns of Growing Influence of Drug Cartels


May 1995

International relations scholar Rensselaer Lee looks at the growing influence of drug cartels on national and world economies and political systems in an article for the journal Current History (Rensselaer W. Lee III, "Global Reach: The Threat of International Drug Trafficking," Current History, May 1995, p. 207-211). Drug trafficking organizations, he writes, represent major threats to developing nations, threats the "war on drugs" is incapable of harnessing:

Some worrisome trends have arisen in narcotic industry strategies: widening economic influence, that is, the impact of the illicit drug trade on illegal economic structures and processes in major producing or transit countries; the increasing political corruption in such countries; the growing intrusion of narcocriminal enterprises into the realm of the state and law, a process that some scholars associate with the delegitimization of government; the success of narcotics businesses in innovation, avoiding detection, and increasing operating efficiency; and, especially apparent since the late 1980s, the growing transnational cooperation among criminal empires that deal in drugs and other black market items. All these trends suggest that narcotics industries are enhancing their power and reach, developing new and advanced capabilities, and establishing new bases of support. At the same time, the leaders and citizens of some trafficking countries are exhibiting clear signs of drug war fatigue. Much to the dismay of the United States, support is growing for peaceful resolutions to the drug trade issue, ranging from negotiated surrenders that treat drug kingpins leniently to the outright legalization of narcotics.