Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

International Affairs

First Advisor

David Brown

Second Advisor

Vicki Hunter

Third Advisor

Caroline Conzelman

Abstract

This thesis is examining the question: What factors play a decisive roll in the existence of the Colombian cocaine trade, and more importantly, what is the relationship between Colombian cocaine production and the nation’s systemic violence? Undemocratic political centralization and weak state capacity led to the creation of a legitimacy gap, which has been attributed to the emergence of the cocaine industry and Colombia’s civil violence. However, the relationship between cocaine production and that violence has been unclear. I propose that this relationship is economic in nature. The illegal nature of the good means that cocaine markets must be regulated by privatized enforcement mechanisms. In Colombia, non-state armed groups are charged with regulating the illegal drug industry. They provide a ‘specialized coercive labor,’ which is vital to cocaine production. This coercive labor acts as a mean of coercion, which is an input into the production of cocaine. Colombia, defined by an oligopoly of coercion, has an excess supply of specialized coercive labor, which is the country’s comparative advantage in the production of cocaine. The data analysis looks at time series comparisons of three different relationships: government legitimacy and cocaine production, oligopolies of coercion and cocaine production, and drug market stability and drug related violence. The results suggest that delegitimation of the Colombian state is the initial root cause of the emergence of the cocaine industry. Furthermore, they imply that violence, as a mean of coercion, is an input into the production of cocaine.