Colombia may be the center of the cocaine trade, but the rest of South America is involved, more or less willingly, in most other aspects of drug trafficking whether as coca producers (Bolivia and Peru), transit countries (Brazil and Venezuela), or money launderers (Argentina). Once the traffickers have moved into a country the transit routes are opened, the money and corruption follow, and new vested interests with growing stakes in the trade emerge (see Figure 10.1). The pervasive way the illicit drugs trade spreads
was highlighted at the sixth Ibero-American Summit, which was held in Santiago, Chile, in November 1996. President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle of Chile emphasized the threat to democracy that was posed by official corruption, which was linked to the drugs trade. No country was free of the danger. The conference pledged to coordinate the efforts of its members against drug trafficking and to seek further assistance from countries that were markets for illegal drugs, principally the United States. The following year, in May 1997, the presidents of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the United States, and the prime minister of Belize, met in San Jose, Costa Rica, where they agreed to cooperate more closely in an effort to combat drug trafficking in the region. Although Latin American leaders are sincere in their determination to fight the drugs trade, it is the United States, with its open purse and determination to bring the fight against drugs into the source countries that provides the driving force in this endless and shifting battle.