Without a doubt, drug trafficking is the phenomenon that has defined the destiny of Latin America since the late 1970s. The violence, corruption and diplomatic issues that result from drug trafficking have defined the region’s governments, culture and society.
The war on drugs, which has lasted for long and painful decades, has modified several ecosystems throughout the continent, and has caused the forced migration of thousands of farmers and their families.
The effect of single-crop farming
Diversity is key to sustaining any ecosystem. The natural world is a fine balance between dominant and dominated flora and fauna species. However, when a plantation covers large amounts of land, diversity ends and the impact of monocultures begins, creating a domino effect. Such is the case of the areas that have been used, in countries such as Colombia and Mexico, for the exclusive cultivation of crops such as poppies and marijuana.
Drug traffickers’ single-crop farming and infrastructure lead to deforestation
Plants like the poppy require very specific climatic conditions. In Mexico, for example, it occurs mainly in regions such as the Golden Triangle between Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua. As drug trafficking seeks to grow these plants in anonymity, huge forest areas have suffered deforestation. In Colombia, for example, up to 30% of total deforestation is the product of drug trafficking and cocaine production. As Erika Barrantes wrote in EFE Verde: “Damage to nature, which occurs mainly in primary forests and protected wild areas, is caused by the construction of clandestine landing strips, roads and other infrastructure necessary for the transfer of drugs or money-laundering.”
Fleeing farmers and the dangers of drug labs
The violence created by drug trafficking has affected entire families and communities, including vulnerable groups such as indigenous groups. In Mexico, violence has led to the forced migration of thousands of people, both to the United States and to other parts of the Republic. The Mexican countryside has already suffered from government abandonment, but drug-trafficking refugees have additionally caused the loss of crops and depletion of the workforce. Drug trafficking also tends to ask for floor permits, which raises prices and causes shortage problems.
Another great risk, the consequences of which are still not very clear, is the contamination caused by the amphetamine drug laboratories that use harmful chemicals for their manufacture. According to the BBC, in Mexico there are no measures in place to clean the areas where the laboratories are located, which potentially allows toxic substances to infiltrate the environment for years.