Drug trafficking has been counted as an international illegal action or international crime against global human security. 

Here, trafficking refers to any movement or reproduction of drugs that are declared banned at both the domestic and international levels. And interestingly, this drug trafficking has some codes among traffickers. They believe in a hierarchical system for the distribution of drugs.

However, non-traditional security issues are contrasted against traditional security measures, which are mainly concerned with military and political confrontation. But scholars argue that the former, NTS (non-tradional Security), has an overlapping tendency.

NTS can be transnational or intranational. And drug trafficking is one of them, which emerged first at the domestic level and later transcended to some other states, and vice versa.

However, in this writing, we will try to discuss drug trafficking as a non-traditional security threat for Latin America and how this threat becomes transnational and influences the overall traditional security of Latin America.

Traditional Security and Non-international Security Threats?  

A state’s national security has largely been affected owing to traditional security threats, and these threats emerge from various inter-state or international issues such as water sharing, land sharing, and the exploitation of natural resources.

Similarly, large-scale migration, environmental degradation and climate change action, intensification of ethnocentrism towards ethno nationalism leading to ethnic conflicts, cyberspace security risks, human trafficking, drug trafficking, terrorism, violent extremism, etc. are examples of such non-traditional security threats [Banarjee, D. 2020].

Drug trafficking and National Security of Latin Americas Countries: 

Like most developing parts of the world, South America, particularly Latin America, is vested with non-traditional security threats like drug addiction and drug trafficking, which are increasing rapidly. 

And obviously, young people are the main victims of this threat. This NTS threat of drug trafficking puts much pressure on the national security of Latin American states.

There are many causes that are responsible for such trafficking in Latin American states, like corruption, military rule, a lack of democratic values, the institutional failure of enforcement agencies, and, of course, poverty. So this provides an urgency in explaining how the national security of most Latin American countries gets violated because of this NTS threat—drug trafficking.

Among NTS threats, drug trafficking has three faces: production, trafficking, and abuse of existing systems, and when these three come together, that would put any state in a vulnerable position.

In Latin America, drugs have been trafficked through various routes, and the USA has been the prime consumer and main destination of these drugs. Almost 80% of the cocaine and 90% of the marijuana entering the United States come from Latin America. 

Produced in the Andes region (Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia), the drugs transit via the West Indies, Central America, and Mexico, which are the trafficking centers of the international mafia allied with the Colombian drug cartels that lay down the law in the region [Locaste, Y. 1997].

There are many factors, both internal and external, that facilitate continued drug trafficking in Central, North, and Latin America. Scholars or organizations like UNIDOC identify some important trends that helped increase drug trafficking in this region, namely [Begely, B. 2014]:

(1) the increasing globalization of drug consumption;

(2) the limited or “partial victories” and unintended consequences of the US-led “War on Drugs“, especially in the Andes;

(3) the proliferation of areas of drug cultivation and of drug smuggling routes throughout the hemisphere;

(4) the dispersion and fragmentation of organized criminal groups or networks within countries and across sub-regions;

(5) the failure of political reform and state-building efforts;

(6) the inadequacies or failures of US domestic drug and crime control policies; 

(7) the ineffectiveness of regional and international drug control policies

(8) The growth in support for harm reduction, decriminalization, and legalization policy alternatives

The effects of drug trafficking and drug addiction are very obvious in most Latin American countries. When we say that drug trafficking is a transnational, non-traditional security threat. 

This threat has largely affected three areas: social security, economic security, and environmental security. Drug trafficking remains a major threat to most of Latin America’s societal security [Trinkunas H. 2015]. This threat emerges in two forms: drug abuse and organized crime.

Drug abuse threatens the security of Latin American society in three ways[Trinkunas H. 2015].

Firstly, it helps to increase the addiction level among the victims; more and more are getting addicted day by day.

Secondly, this trafficking ruins the lives of many Latin American families. The family economic structure is about to be destroyed.

And finally, when drug addicts are men, they are involved in criminal activities. When the victims are women, they get prostitutes to reimburse them for their drugs.

Thus, this excessive transaction of drugs abuses most of central and Latin American society.

Organized crimes are different from regular crimes. In Latin America and Central America, it basically tries to develop a specific position within another jurisdiction where drug trafficking tries to take control over the state system for the shakeup of their drug regime.

In response, states take offensive and brutal measures, such as combating drug trafficking in ColombiaBolivia, and Mexico. A large number of people are killed by states under the banner of drug trafficking. Sometimes, states use drugs as their own part of terrorism to counter the opposition’s political personnel.

The Latin American economy has been affected by drug trafficking. As the money comes from drugs, which are by default illegal, and as this money is black, they smuggled or laundered it. A large amount of money has gone outside the regular economy, so it gives rise to inflation. 

Besides, states have to spend a lot to counter these illegal actions. This spending has ultimately been created a vacuum in parts of social welfare. Thus, in Latin America, an economic crisis is going on due to drug trafficking.

Drug trafficking and drug production are very detrimental to the environment in Latin American countries. Production of drugs like marijuana and Cocaine needs a better space, free from any other plants. 

But its detrimental effects affected both the soil and its surroundings. In certain cases, the erosion caused by poppy cultivation has even caused landslides in Columbia.

The poppy and coca producers also do not allow other plants to grow near the poppy and coca plants since narcotics will not produce their maximum if other nearby plants compete for nutrients [Trinkunas H. 2015].

Moreover, these drugs need a lot of fertilizer, and drug producers use chemicals to convert coca and poppy into cocaine and heroin. The washings are discharged into the nearest river, causing new disasters for species living in the water and people whose livelihoods depend on them. 

Thus, Drug production for trafficking has had many negative effects on Latin American environments.


Drug trafficking remains one of the dominant non-traditional security threats for any country, and for Latin America, it has shown its negativity as much as possible. 

Though both the US and other state parties tried much to deter these threats, they remain unsuccessful because these traffickers have a strong lobby in both North and South American government officials, and it is an open secret today. But people hope this will change. We hope so too.


1 Banarjee D. (2020). Traditional Security vs Non-Traditional Security Threats.  


2 Geopolitical Drug Observatory (OGD), Atlas mondial des drogues, PUF, September 1996; Yves Lacoste, Dictionnaire deopolitique, Flammarion, 1997. https://mondediplo.com/maps/drugs

3 Begely, B. (2013). The evolution of drug trafficking and organised crimes in Latin America.  


4 Trinkunas H. (2015). The Network Effects: Trafficking in Illegal Money, Drugs And People in Latin America.  https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2015/12/03/the-network-effect-trafficking-in-illicit drugs-money-and-people-in-latin-america/amp/  




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