Colombia’s Narcotics Nightmare

How the Drug Trade Destroyed Peace


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About the Book

This history of Colombia’s illegal drug trade—and of the extreme violence it created—describes how in the late 1960s narcotics traffickers from the United States convinced Colombians who had no previous involvement in the drug trade to grow marijuana for export to America. By the early ’70s, foreign (mostly American) traffickers began requesting cocaine.
This book focuses on the decades of crime and violence the illegal drug trade brought to Colombia and how this social upset was ended in the early 2000s. Six chapters detail the Medellín and Cali cartels’ war against the Colombian government, the revolutionary guerrillas’ war against the government, the war that paramilitary groups conducted against the guerrillas, and the way in which the government finally put a stop to the cartel-financed bloodshed. In conclusion, the author assesses Colombia’s progress and prospects since the end of the violence claimed the lives of some 300,000 between 1975 and 2008.

About the Author(s)

James D. Henderson specializes in modern Latin American and Colombian history. He taught at Coastal Carolina University until his retirement in 2014. He lives in Conway, South Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

James D. Henderson

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 240
Bibliographic Info: glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7917-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1884-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Introduction: The Left and Right of Violence and Illegal Drugs in Colombia 1
Song of Love (Between My Country and Me) by Luz Marina Posada 10

1. Colombia’s Decade of Peace, 1965–1975
Dynamism of the 1965–1975 Period 11
Colombia’s Iron Triangle of Violence 16
Rise of the Drug Culture in the United States 18
Initial U.S. and Colombian Responses to Illegal Drugs, 1965–1975 23

2. The Illegal Drug Hydra, 1970–1983
Colombia Gold 26
Cocaine Comes to Colombia 33
Drugs, Violence, Impunity 41
The Cartels’ Golden Moment, 1978–1983 47

3. The Cartels’ War Against the State, 1984–1994
The Extraditables 53
The New Violence 65
Democratic Responses to the Violence 75
Moment of Hope 81

4. The Guerrillas’ War Against the State
Introduction: Guerrillas and Drugs 89
The Guerrillas During Colombia’s Decade of Peace, 1965–1975 92
Guerrilla Advance During the Illegal Drug Boom, 1975–1993 97
The Guerrilla Offensive of 1994–2002 112

5. The Paramilitary Offensive
Introduction: Civil Defense and Impunity 121
Paramilitary Growth During the 1970s and 1980s 124
The ­Narco-Paramilitary 134
The Paramilitary Offensive of 1994–2002 139

6. Colombia Gets Tough, 2002–2013
The Uribe Phenomenon 154
Plan Colombia 165
Slogging Toward Peace 173
Victim of Globalization 185
Illegal Drugs and Colombia’s New Violence 186
Post-Conflict Colombia 187

Glossary 193
Chapter Notes 197
Bibliography 216
Index 223

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Henderson takes by the horns this ‘difficult subject of study’”—Hispanic American Historical Review
  • “valuable”—Revista Arcadia