The Latin American Narcotics Trade and U.S. National Security

By Donald J. Mabry | Go to book overview

2
Nativism, Cultural Conflict, Drug Control: United States and Latin American Antinarcotics Diplomacy through 1965

Douglas Clark Kinder

Although drug control attracted less public attention as a foreign policy issue twenty-three years ago, by 1965, U.S. officials had already unsuccessfully attempted to stem the flow of Latin American narcotics into this country for nearly six decades. Such an unsuccessful record occurred largely because the United States antidrug program ignored the distinct economic, political, and social conditions south of the border. 1 Further complicating Washington's task in the hemisphere, achieving a popular consensus against drugs at home required three-fourths of a century of reform agitation. Indigenous narcotics restriction--given the country's large and expanding addict population--would also entail vigilant law enforcement and effective national legislation. U.S. authorities had long held, however, that thorough countrywide drug control depended primarily upon international antinarcotics diplomacy. Desiring to confine opium, coca, and cannabis cultivation in producing nations to amounts necessary for legitimate global scientific and medical purposes, Washington's antidrug advocates conducted both a bilateral and multilateral foreign policy towards Latin America. Every U.S. effort, naturally enough, appeared to Latin American governments as the intrusion of an aggressive alien society, or, if acceptable to them, seemed to the Indians and mestizos residing for generations in narcotics-growing areas as the continuation of earlier Spanish, creole, or national government encroachments upon their life style. 2

Aggravating the cultural conflict generated by Washington's activities, U.S. narcotics restrictionists translated nativistic rhetoric and policies into a strident antidrug campaign. A small group of social reformers, physicians, pharmacists, diplomats, and muckraking journalists launched this antidrug movement in the late nineteenth century to reduce the country's widespread addiction. Though none of this group agreed on the precise level of substance abuse (there were no accurate estimates of the habitue population), they perceived addiction as a serious and growing problem that

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