State-narco networks and the ‘War on Drugs’ in post-transition Bolivia, with special reference to 1989-1993

Gillies, Allan Jack Joseph (2016) State-narco networks and the ‘War on Drugs’ in post-transition Bolivia, with special reference to 1989-1993. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the development of state-narco networks in post-transition Bolivia. Mainstream discourses of drugs tend to undertheorise such relationships, holding illicit economies, weak states and violence as synergistic phenomena. Such assumptions fail to capture the nuanced relations that emerge between the state and the drug trade in different contexts, their underlying logics and diverse effects. As an understudied case, Bolivia offers novel insights into these dynamics. Bolivian military authoritarian governments (1964-1982), for example, integrated drug rents into clientelistic systems of governance, helping to establish factional coalitions and reinforce regime authority. Following democratic transition in 1982 and the escalation of US counterdrug efforts, these stable modes of exchange between the state and the coca-cocaine economy fragmented. Bolivia, though, continued to experience lower levels of drug-related violence than its Andean neighbours, and sustained democratisation despite being a major drug producer. Focusing on the introduction of the Andean Initiative (1989-1993), I explore state-narco interactions during this period of flux: from authoritarianism to (formal) democracy, and from Cold War to Drug War. As such, the thesis transcends the conventional analyses of the drugs literature and orthodox readings of Latin American narco-violence, providing insights into the relationship between illicit
economies and democratic transition, the regional role of the US, and the (unintended) consequences of drug policy interventions.

I utilise a mixed methods approach to offer discrete perspectives on the object of study. Drawing on documentary and secondary sources, I argue that state-narco networks were interwoven with Bolivia’s post-transition political settlement. Uneven democratisation ensured pockets of informalism, as clientelistic and authoritarian practices continued. This included police and military autonomy, and tolerance of drug corruption within both institutions. Non-enforcement of democratic norms of accountability and transparency was linked to the maintenance of fragile political equilibrium. Interviews with key US and Bolivian elite actors also revealed differing interpretations of state-narco interactions. These exposed competing agendas, and were folded into alternative paradigms and narratives of the ‘war on drugs’. The extension of US Drug War goals and the targeting of ‘corrupt’ local power structures, clashed with local ambivalence towards the drug trade, opposition to destabilising, ‘Colombianised’ policies and the claimed ‘democratising mission’ of the Bolivian government. In contrasting these US and Bolivian accounts, the thesis shows how real and perceived state-narco webs were understood and navigated by different actors in distinct ways. ‘Drug corruption’ held significance beyond simple economic transaction or institutional failure. Contestation around state-narco interactions was enmeshed in US-Bolivian relations of power and control.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: The 'War on Drugs', Bolivia, political economy of illicit drugs, corruption, state fragility, US foreign policy, democratisation, Latin America.
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Marshall, Dr. Alex, Hume, Dr. Mo and Atkinson, Prof. Jacqueline
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Allan J J Gillies
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7742
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2016 14:13
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2018 11:05
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