Narcotics rate. Many people took note of what

present a unique problem with links to worldwide political, economic, and
social implications issues.  These
problems, such as human security, are presented to countries that have become
transit and consumer nations because of the drug trafficking that occur
daily.  Latin America is particularly a
drug producing area that experiences political and economic instability because
of the epidemic that is currently present and hard to ignore.  Countries involved in the Latin American drug
trade include; Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Panama, and others.  In this paper, the objective will be to
assess the past issues, current status, and future prospects of the United
States war against narcotics within these nations.  There are specific examples in history where
it is easy to see the effects this illegal market has had on humanity as well
as countries as a whole.  This paper will
give a brief summary about the basic problems of drug use in America, and will
examine how the United States has handle the specific situations of General
Noriega and the Panamanians, as well as Colombia currently accounting for the
vast bulk of cocaine being produced in Latin America.  Lastly, I will examine a wide plethora of
policy options that are presently available to the United States in its
campaign and fight against drug trafficking in Panama, Colombia, and other
Latin American countries. 


            In the
latter part of the twentieth century, more specifically the late 1980’s, the
presence of drug trafficking around the world grew at an unprecedented
rate.  Many people took note of what was
happening and so they believed that the United States was facing a national
security crisis as far as narcotics were related.  In 1988, in major American cities, as many as
75 percent of more criminals who were arrested, tested positive for the use of
drugs*. This allegation is backed up by a study done by a Justice Department,
in which they found that one-half to three-quarters of the men arrested for
serious crimes in twelve major cities, tested positive for the recent use of
illegal drugs, whereas another similar study done a few years prior showed that
only 56 percent of those arrested for serious crime were abusing narcotics
prior to their arrest*.  With that said,
there are more than 1.2 million intravenous drugs users in America and that
number only seems to be increasing.  HIV
Aids is common amongst intravenous drug users, and out of 1.2 million drug
users in the United States, the deadly disease infects about 250,000 of them.  It has been estimated that the total cost of
drugs to the American society measured in terms of illness, death, crime, law
enforcement, lost productivity, overcrowded jails, and drug treatment, amounts
to nearly $100 billion annually*. 

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of narcotics and the use of drugs are widespread problems that have been
killing and destroying lives for decades. 
In the five years leading up to Manual Antonio Noreiga’s trial, the
amount of cocaine related deaths increased dramatically by 500 percent.  Along with that, the amount of heroin related
deaths in the United States increased more than 60 percent*.  Besides killing the lives of adults and teens,
drugs like cocaine and heroin are also a major cause of infant fatalities and
birth defects.  A study was recorded of ninety-five
children who died before the age of five, in which the results show that in
three-quarters of these instances, at least one of the parents abused
drugs.  In 1987, the New York’s Harlem
Hospital, one of the few hospitals in New York State to keep detailed figures
declared that over four hundred babies tested positive for drugs at birth*.  With that said, it has been estimated that in
a single day, about 5,000 Americans will use crack or cocaine for the very
first time.  It has also been estimated
that more than 20 million people in America have already tried cocaine and that
at least a million of those people are addicted to the harmful substance.


In the early part of the 1980’s the
United States president, Ronald Reagan, declared a “war on drugs”.  Congress enacted the Rangel-Gilman-Hawkins
amendment. Which requires the State Department to annually record and report on
the countries that show efforts toward major drug exportation.  This amendment was passed in expectation that
it would act to limit production.  The
loss of economic aid from the United States, served as the sanction or
punishment for the countries that failed to make reasonable efforts toward
slowing down such production.  Early in
the year of 1988, the State Department reported to the President as the act
required, but the report was not what was expected.  The report only recommended three countries
for the sanction of loss of economic aid, all of which were already financially
independent and not receiving any aid from the United States: Iran, Syria, and
Afghanistan*.  Another example of the
United States implementing policies to combat this war against drugs, can be
see in 1986, when the President signed the Anti-Drug Act.  This act promised, “total commitment of the
American people and their Government to fight the evil of drugs.”  President Reagan said, “Our goal is nothing
less than a drug-free operation”, and that drug use was “too costly for us not
to do everything in our power not just to fight it, but to subdue it and
conquer it”. *


            During President Reagan’s time in
charge, the United States entered a new era of drug diplomacy in its foreign
affairs towards Latin America.  It was
politically popular to claim that reduction and control of narcotics
trafficking ranked higher in national importance than immigration and foreign
debt, during this time period.  In an
opening statement delivered by United States Senator, Jesse Helms, to the
Committee of Foreign Relations, he declared, “There are several countries in
Latin America that have become major drug producing or drug trafficking
countries.  But without a doubt, Panama
is now at the center of drug and money-laundering operations in the
hemisphere”.  * This statement made by
Senator Helms was built on evidence of over a two-year span that showed the
Panamanian General, Manual Antonio Noriega, and other high-ranking officials
committing numerous illegal activities. 
Senator Helms went even further by explaining how the actions of General
Noriega turned Panama into a criminal’s sanctuary, and how these men are
ruthless when it comes to robbing and betraying the people of Panama.


Noriega’s rise to power in Panama and the relationships he had with the drug
cartels helps put into perspective how such corruption could take place in a
country.  General Omar Torrijos came to
power in 1968 and introduced a series of important changes that would improve
life in Panama.  General Torrijos worked
diligently to help not only the Panamanian citizens, but also everyone around
the world, so that Panama could experience full democracy through free
elections and have an established government under the power of its
civilians.  For the entirety of Torrijos’
reign, educations and social reform were his main priorities.  Along with education and social reform,
Panama began experiencing the development of mass transportation and a health
care system within its boundaries.


General Torrijos suffered and unexpected death in 1981,
leaving the people of Panama in turmoil. 
The country fell victim to an intense internal struggle within the
Panama’s Defense Forces, as three different leaders struggled for control of
the nation’s military.  General Noriega,
who was the head of Panama’s Intelligence Agency, was one of these leaders.  After legally taking control of Panama,
General Noriega turned the national guard of Panama into the Panamanian Defense
Forces.  This transition made by Noriega
showed the type of power he had, as it expanded his control to many
institutions.  One of his first acts was
to have the Legislative Assembly approve a bill to restructure the National
Guard, which thereafter would operate under the name of Panama Defense Forces
(Fuerzas de Defensa de Panamá—FDP). 
Technically, the president of the republic would head the Defense
Forces, but the real power remained in the hands of Noriega, who garnished the
new title of commander and chief of the FDP. ***


With General Noriega in charge Panama saw great change in
almost every aspect of life.  General
Torrijos’ vision of Panama was nothing like the vision Noriega had for the
nation.  The military forces in Panama
expanded their involvement in all levels of the government, including the responsibilities
that dealt with immigration, airports, and customs coming in and out of the
country.  Noriega strategically placed
individuals in key positions in ministries and in the courts, making sure his
regime exercised their power throughout all of Panama.  With this kind of control, the general and
his small group of select civilians worked to turn Panama into a place where
they could conduct numerous criminal activities and run their illegal
enterprises. * 


Through the various illegal activities that took place,
General Noriega made a lot of money in very diverse ways to know surprise to
the American people.  In 1986, the New
York Times announced publicly that General Noriega was involved with the
illicit activities that involved narcotics. 
During this time it was also reported that Noriega had approximately
twelve houses in the Republic of Panama. 
Along with the plethora of homes, he had several high-end automobiles
and customized vans made specifically for him and whatever he planned to use them
for.  The official salary of the general
that was reported ranged between $3,500 and $4,000 balboas, estimated to about
$50,000 to $60,000 US dollars annually. 
This salary had to have been skewed or must not have accounted for the
money he was making illegally, as the lavish life he was living would not be
affordable by these measures.  Along with
the homes and cars he had in Panama, he also had a number of planes,
helicopters, jets, and several homes in Europe. *


Panama faced an internal problem in 1985 as General
Noriega’s power seemed to be getting out of control and the corruption within
the nation only got worse.  In the later
part of the 1980’s, Panama faced several minute crises that were a result of
Noriega’s regime.  The United States
decided to get involved in in February of 1988 when the president declared
narcotics to be a major threat to American society.  This declaration was made at the same time
that Noriega was indicted in Florida for money laundering and the trafficking
of narcotics*.  The United States saw the
effects of Noriega’s corruption both on the Panamanian people and the American
society that they sought to remove the general from power following his


Long before President Reagan declared a war against drugs,
many people believed that General Noriega should have been prosecuted for his
involvement in the illegal trafficking that took place.  There were many signs of his involvement
throughout his reign, none more than the simple fact that the price of cocaine
changed drastically.  In 1982 the price
of a kilo of cocaine ranged from $47,000 to $60,000, while in 1987, the price
ranged from $12,000 to $15,000 on the street. 
Many people, including high-ranking government officials, believed there
was no coincidence that in 1983 Noriega and his nation seemed to have close
knit relationship with the Cartel. 
Further evidence of the general’s involvement stemmed from the role the
Panamanian Air Force played in the illegal trafficking of narcotics and deadly
weapons.  The Panamanian Air Force, led
by Noriega, played an instrumental role in the trafficking of these products,
thus leading to the United States getting involved.  In 1989, the United States invaded Panama,
which was the first time America used their forces since 1945 that was
extraneous to the Cold War.  The invasion
and use of American troops in Panama resulted in the most violent event in
Panamanian history.  The United States
were successful in their endeavor as it resulted in the capture of Noriega who
was eventually brought to America and tried for his criminal activity and
illegal drug operations.**


Many people wondered why the United States government waited
so long to action against General Noriega, but there were several reasons why
they didn’t act sooner.  America’s
continued interest and use of the Panama Canal was very important, so although
the drug trafficking caused a national epidemic many people believed it was
important to stay on good terms with the country.  On the other hand, if the narcotics trade was
actually looked at as a grand problem and an immediate emergency, then the
problem resided on the Federal Drug Task Force. 
Furthermore, if the drug trade was a bigger issue than any other
important interest of the United States, allegations of corruption between
Noriega and the CIA could be investigated. 
It is believed that many under the table dealings were made between the
two parties, allowing such illegal activities to take place for as long as they


 The Panama Canal
serves as an international waterway that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and
is used for a variety of different expenditures.  For commercial importance, the canal was
built to shorten the distance that ships had to travel to pass between the two
oceans and permits shippers of commercial goods to save time and money by
transporting cargo more quickly.  The
Panama Canal also has ties to military endeavors as it was used for the
transportation of military water vessels. 
At the time when General Noriega was in charge, American policy makers
recognized that the biggest threat to the Panama Canal came from the
instability inside Panama.  Because the
United States had great need for access to the canal, they feared an adverse
government to America would take control and shut off access.  Administrations in the United States viewed
this link between security for the canal and stability inside Panama to believe
that the Panama Defense Forces, which was headed by Noriega, to be the most
important factor to stability within Panama and the key to assuring the
security and access of the waterway.  The
development of close and supportive relations between the United States and the
Defense Forces was important to assure this stability, but overthrowing Noriega
instantly would have made it much harder to accomplish such goals.  With that said, the United States was strong-armed
into promoting the cause of democracy that comprised the battle against the
illegal trafficking of narcotics inside Panama, while making sure not to cause
a social uprising that would cause chaos and a anti-American government.**  It was important for America to continue putting
pressure on the Panamanian military, while making sure they did not jeopardize
their use of the Panama Canal.