Accepted Paper:

Illicit cocaine capital flows and their implications for rural development in Central America  


Zoe Pearson (University of Wyoming)

Paper Short Abstract:

Illicit cocaine flows and the capital they generate represent a large, yet understudied, influence in Central American economies. This paper presents estimates of these cocaine flows and their development implications for local peoples and economies at the sites of cocaine transhipment.

Paper long abstract:

Central America has become a major cocaine transhipment zone in the twenty-first century as a result of Caribbean and Mexican routes being eliminated through counternarcotics efforts. The capital that accompanies cocaine flows through the isthmus, and that remains in rural nodes of cocaine transfer, represents an unprecedented source of development and economic change for some of the most impoverished communities in the hemisphere. Our estimates of cocaine's potential economic influence in Central America are the first to utilize data provided by the United States' Office of National Drug Control Policy's Consolidated Counter Drug Database (CCDB). We use the CCDB data along with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and World Bank wholesale cocaine price estimates to calculate estimates the value of primary cocaine movements passing through Central American countries from 2000-2014. Ethnographic data provides us with examples for estimating the cocaine generated rents captured in rural transit zones. In doing so we demonstrate that cocaine transport through Central America has significant development implications for the region, and, in particular, for local peoples and economies at the sites of cocaine transhipment.

Co-Authors: Kendra McSweeney, Erik Nielsen, and Justin Piccorelli

Panel M1
Opening up the drug policy debate: grassroots perspectives