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Between the Lines: Drug Trafficking and Transit States


As one of the most profitable, and highly organized, aspects of TNC, drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) have the capabilities and motives to directly challenge state institutions. Most at risk are states that are poor, fragile or emerging from conflict. Drug trafficking operates in an insidious and mutually reinforcing manner with pre-existing vulnerabilities. Weak and fragile states that lack capacity are prime candidates for DTOs, and once such organizations work their way in, these states are further incapacitated and weakened. Much like a drug addiction, it can cause a deeply negative and destructive spiral. Unlike a drug addiction, which may end in death, the likely outcome is not a failed state, but a situation where the state structure has been overrun and corrupted by the criminal element. Some commentators have described these as ‘narco-states’, where the country serves the interests of the DTO rather than the people.

As such, drug trafficking poses a major threat to weak and vulnerable states, and international security more generally. While both producing and transit states are susceptible to capture by DTOs, this project will focus on the latter group, which have received much less attention to date. As such, the project will explore the consequences of drug trafficking for countries that are caught in the middle of the drug trade. In so doing, it will contextualize the relationship between transit states and drug trafficking within larger material and ideational structures that shape the international prohibition regime. It will also consider historical and contemporary politico-economic factors that have made these states “good candidates” for DTOs.