An Internation Story: The Myth of the 'Narco-Guerrillas.' (Colombia)

By Collett, Merrill | The Nation, August 13, 1988 | Go to article overview

An Internation Story: The Myth of the 'Narco-Guerrillas.' (Colombia)


Collett, Merrill, The Nation


AN INTERNATIONAL STORY THE MYTH OF THE 'NARCOGUERRILLAS' On March 10, 1984, Colombian police swooped down on a jungle drug complex known as Tranquilandia and seized 27,500 pounds of pure cocaine. It was the biggest coke bust in history. A few days later the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Lewis Tambs, made a startling announcement: Tranquilandia had been protected by Communist rebels. He dubbed them "narcoguerrillas."

It's now acknowledged that Tambs conjured up a phantom. There were no guerrillas at Tranquilandia. Gen. Miguel Antonio Gomez Padilla, the former head of Colombia's antinarcotics police, admitted in an interview that police did not encounter Communist rebels, their uniforms or even propaganda. "Tambs got ahead of the evidence," a senior State Department official acknowledged. Nevertheless, the narcoguerrilla was projected as reality by the Reagan Administration. A 1985 State Department and Defense Department report on Soviet influence in Latin America warned of an "alliance between drug smugglers and arms dealers in support of terrorists and guerrillas." A 1986 presidential directive raised drug smuggling to the level of a national security threat because of what Vice President George Bush called "a real link between drugs and terrorism." The next year U.S. delegates to the Conference of American Armies, meeting in Argentina, urged Latin American general staffs to unite against "narcoterrorism." Finally, in a report released this May, the London-based Institute for Strategic Studies declared that "narcoterrorism" is now "on a par with communism as a threat to western interests in Latin America."

This language is in line with a familiar vision of the United States besieged by foreign devils, but it obscures the essential difference between drug traffickers and Marxist insurgents. The notion of a "narcoguerrilla" unites what can't be united: Top traffickers are hugely successful capitalists bent on boosting their earnings and their social status. Marxist rebels want to overthrow capitalism altogether. These contradictory objectives explain why guerrillas and traffickers are killing each other in Peru and Colombia, and why the Medellin cocaine cartel lurks behind Colombia's dirty war. The narcoguerrilla notion ignores not only these realities but the political impact of Latin America's exploding drug industry. The voracious U.S. demand for cocaine has jolted regional economies, thrusting to center stage a violent new actor in Latin American politics: the narco New Right.

The narcos want to get into the establishment, not overthrow it. They see bloodshed as part of the price of admission to the ruling class--a reasonable reading of Latin American history. The introduction of coffee in Colombia at the end of the last century brought on a civil war. Brazil's cacao boom gave rise to the corrupt killers made famous by Jorge Amado in his novel The Violent Land. Eventually the captains of coffee and cacao bought and bludgeoned their way into the oligarchy, and the same is almost certain to happen with the rising new stratum of cocaine capitalists.

The narcos seek to legitimize their nouveau riche status through nationalism, and their nationalism infects their investment decisions. Latin American elites traditionally squirrel away their dollars in foreign banks and buy second houses overseas, but traffickers "don't want to go to the south of France," as one U.S. diplomat told me. "They don't speak French." What they do speak is the language of money. Traffickers bring back drug dollars and invest heavily in the national economy. In Colombia they repatriate between $1 billion and $2 billion annually. Last year they "reactivated" the economy, according to the controller general. The steady devaluation of the Colombian peso makes dollar repatriation on this scale an unsound business practice, but traffickers are moved by more than the profit motive. They want bank accounts in Switzerland, but they want social status in Colombia too. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

An Internation Story: The Myth of the 'Narco-Guerrillas.' (Colombia)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.