Drug Economies of the Americas

In the Americas, the production and sale of illicit drugs generates tens of billions of dollars a year—perhaps far more. NACLA editor Mark Fried wrote in 1989, in the introduction to our first issue on the subject, "The moral blinders most of us wear tend to hide the essentials of the drug trade. [Drugs] are not devils, any more than they are gods. They are commodities and the drug trade is a multinational industry like any other."

That is still true, and it is still helpful to examine the industry in that light, even though the drug trade has changed in some significant ways since then. There now seems to be no nation in the Americas that has no role at all in the drug trade; most of the nations of South and Central America and the Caribbean that do not produce significant amounts of illegal drugs for export have some role as drug transit routes or money laundering centers. In this Report, we detail the history and current state of some of the most important national industries.