The Implications of Colombian Drug Industry and Death Squad Political Violence for U.S. Counternarcotics Policy

by K. Jack Riley

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An analysis of political violence in Colombia reveals that the drug industry has responded to key changes in counternarcotics policies with sharply higher levels of violence, and that death squad political violence is advancing virtually unchecked. These patterns of political violence pose severe challenges to regional U.S. counternarcotics policy. Greater efforts to control drug trafficking are likely to provoke more drug-related violence, but are unlikely to lead to significant reductions in cocaine trafficking. In addition, existing counternarcotics policy ignores the widening threat to political stability posed by death squad political violence. If U.S. policy is not reoriented to better address Colombia's primary interest in combatting all forms of political violence, the United States may find Colombia increasingly hesitant to support counternarcotics programs, thereby undermining the United States' ability to pursue regional objectives.

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