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Documentaries on the War on Drugs in Latin America

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Quality documentaries have this power to pull you in and spark your curiosity. Here I have watched, reviewed and applauded four documentaries with thought-provoking perspectives on the War on Drugs and its effects on the Latin American region. There’s nothing like a controversial documentary to stir up debate at the dinner table, hey?

These short documentaries have a few ideas that may make you more aware when it comes to pressing drug policies of Latin America. But, “why bother?” I hear you ask.

We are busy people. We need a quick fix.

Therefore, it’s wondrous the difference 1-2 hours can actually craft on stubborn preconceptions or misconceptions. I know I had/ have quite a few to boot!

 

Running down this line it is also pretty important to understand your surroundings.

Before hopping on a plane don’t you check the destination language, currency and weather? Alas, you arrive beach-ready to Italy in February and realize its just as damn cold as your home town.

Heading out backpacking the Americas is exactly the same. I guarantee you’ll be the most wised-up backpacker on that dangerously swerving bus. You won’t second guess the locals’ advice and you will appreciate the countries’ complex political scenario, avoiding being a tourist airhead.

This is a pretty specific list of documentaries on the War on Drugs, if you prefer some more light-hearted alternatives why not try Pixar’s Coco! Now down to the serious stuff.

Michal Jarmoluk licensed under Creative Commons CC0 at Pixabay.

3 teeny anecdotes just to pound into you the War on Drugs is Real folks!

Once I crossed the Belize to Mexico border with nothing but a backpack and another blonde girl I’d met in the bus. The military guards scanned our bags, stopped us and asked why we had weapons in our bag. They only cracked a smile 5 minutes later. That was not a funny joke my friends. I nearly wee’d myself.

Coming back from Bolivia my entire bag was emptied and searched. Bad news for the officer I’d been to the Amazon and not paid for laundry since. I went on a swamp exhibition, involving … wading through a swamp. That was one smelly bag to search.

My friend’s brother was shot in the hip crossing the legal Mexican boarder to the USA by mistaken identity. He’s doing fine, at least he has a story for the girls…

 

In view of the above, maybe don’t complain that the immigration queue to the USA is nine million miles long. And maybe watch these documentaries instead!

War on Drugs a hot topic in Latin America:

Drugs are everywhere and they affect a huge part of what you see in Latin America. This war declared by the USA in 1971 seems to have rendered as few positive effects for North America as it did for the southern side.

Indeed, there are a gazzilion articles, documentaries, series out there on the War on Drugs, but I’ve chosen a selection of just 4 to give you an overview of the broader picture in Latin America.

So without further ado, let me introduce you less than 6 hours of documentaries you should watch to understand the War on Drugs in Latin America, before bounding into Latin America.

Quebrando o Tabu – Breaking the Taboo

Iñigo Ibisate licensed under Creative Commons CC0 at Pixabay.
Iñigo Ibisate licensed under Creative Commons CC0 at Pixabay.

Overview:

This is Brazilian documentary that examines the implications of not legalizing marijuana and of not decriminalizing other drugs. The director hauled in a star struck cast to round up the failures of the War on Drugs. Featuring interviews with ex-presidents of Switzerland, the USA, and Brazil, this documentary turns out all the information that has fiercely been denied for years.

Why it is worth watching:

The main focus of the documentary is on portraying drug addicts not as criminals, but as victims who need help to break free of the vicious circle. It is refreshing to see the perspective on all the normal citizens that fell into drugs because of bad policies.

Main argument:

Legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of drugs will decrease drug consumption and the number of drug related convictions. Marijuana is only a gateway drug in as much as it puts you in contact and buying from the same person who wants to sell you harder, lethal drugs.

The Two Escobars

Julia, Coffee, licensed under Creative Commons CC0 at Pixabay. 
Julia, Coffee, licensed under Creative Commons CC0 at Pixabay.

Overview:

This documentary entwines the life of two famous Colombians, Pablo Escobar (drug lord) and Andrés Escobar (football player). The documentary dives into the monopoly and sheer power drug traffickers held over Colombia. It touches on the passion behind Latin American football and that sometimes it is infiltrated by the interests of the narco leaders. Although the overall theme is football, it is a fantastic documentary for a history of Colombia and to catch a glimpse of the terror that compelled the country.

Why it is worth watching:

This documentary marks the power and influence penetrated in everything in Latin America to politics, football and economy. It was a mess and one that destroyed a nation that is truly shocking.

Main argument:

Money drives everything and where drug traffickers have money there is little state control. Colombia suffered the worst consequences of the war on drugs declared by the USA.

Note: extremely graphic and violent documentary, made for those with strong stomachs!

 

Cocaine Unwrapped

Documentaries on the War on Drugs in Latin America

Overview:

Cocaine Unwrapped criticizes the brutality and indifference of the heavy handed methods implemented in the War on Drugs. Filming techniques aimed at destroying the cultivation of the Coca plant, which is part of the Andean culture, it highlights the injustices of punishing those at the bottom of the chain.

Coca farmers are usually left with no other means of sustaining their livelihood due to living in such turbulent and poor areas. Highly enlightening, including interviews from various different social spheres, including top politicians to coca leaf farmers, the documentary stresses the responsibility of the countries receiving the drugs.

 

Why it is worth watching:

Seeing the effects of the war through the eyes of those rarely heard. This documentary goes to the heart of humanitarian problems with waging a war on a simple plant.

Main argument:

Attacking the roots of the drug cultivation without providing alternative methods of education, income and safety has only exasperated the situation. There needs to be a broader and more humanitarian way to address the production of cocaine in order to reduce the quantity.

 

Dirty Money: Episode 4, HSBC Bank

Kaufdex, México, licensed under Creative Commons CC0 at Pixabay.
Kaufdex, México, licensed under Creative Commons CC0 at Pixabay.

 

Overview:

Finally, Dirty Money is a series of short documentaries investigating how multinationals gained substancial quantities of money through unlawful and immoral means. I thoroughly recommend all the episodes, but for our Latin American series the episode on HSBC looks at money laundering of narco funds. HSBC in a nutshell overtook a Mexican bank that was a vehicle for money laundering the cartels’ finances. Turning a blind eye by assuming the hundreds of accounts set up illegally, HSBC reaped all the profits, until it was caught red-handed.

 

Why it is worth watching:

Another documentary that perfectly illustrates how drugs are central even in the licit economy of countries in Latin America. It is so diff

Main argument:

Drug traffickers were threatening bankers so that they opened accounts with illicit money. HSBC assumed those accounts without a second thought.

 

In conclusion, the War on Drugs has made Latin America a pretty complex place and its fascinating to see the breadth of problems one policy can encompass.

Thirsty for more? Check out the documentary list at tripsavvy. 

 

Have you seen any of the suggestions above? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below! 

Documentaries You must watch before visiting Latin America - Footloose Lemon Juice

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