Sovereignty under siege: drug trafficking and state capacity in the Caribbean and Central America
King, Ryan Thomas
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Drug trafficking organizations have increased their prominence throughout the Caribbean and Central America. These organizations undermine the rule of law, increase levels of violence and corruption, and hamper development, all of which can weaken a state. Weak or failing states become domestic and regional burdens that spill over into neighboring countries and cause secondary and tertiary problems. This thesis examines causes for different state capacities in the Caribbean and Central America through case study comparisons between Haiti, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. The varying state capacities' interaction with similar drug trafficking pressures accounts for different state legitimacy statuses. Haiti's institutional and ideological influences account for its low state capacity (SC) as compared to the Bahamas. Policy decisions to improve security forces' (SECFOR) state capacity and cooperate with U.S. counternarcotic operations result in the Bahamas' higher SC. Nicaragua and Guatemala's transitions to democracy have resulted in different SECFOR capacities. Nicaragua chose to improve its SECFOR and currently receives assistance from the United States to combat drug trafficking. In contrast, Guatemala institutionalized a corrupt and ineffective SECFOR during its transition to peace. Both regional comparisons prove that SC is a choice. Understanding this relationship can guide domestic and international policy incentives or directives to assist countries in a narco or under siege state legitimacy status.
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