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The outlook for US-LAC relations

Drugs and crime

For over 40 years successive US administrations have sought to counter drug production and trafficking in Latin America and Caribbean, and the smuggling of illicit drugs into the United States. The results have been mixed, for reasons linked to conditions in both the drug-producing and drug-consuming countries. In the producing countries high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment, and social hardship have made it hard to resist the very high profits to be made by drug production and sale. In the consuming countries – mainly in this case in the United States – addiction has been deep rooted, leading to highly price-inelastic demand for drugs. As a result, while the power of different drug cartels has waxed and waned, and governments have experimented with differing antinarcotics policies (from hard-line policing through to a greater concern to tackle underlying causes and offering a public health approach to addiction) the business itself has proven to be extremely resilient.

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