Document Type



The End of Civil War, the Rise of Narcotrafficking, and the Implementation of the Merida Initiative in Central America provides a broad explanation of how Central America became a hub for narcotrafficking between 1979-2012. Using newly declassified documents acquired from the U.S. Department of State, the paper reviews the emergence of narcotrafficking in Central America during its civil war era and briefly shows how Colombian and then Mexican narcotraffickers established a permanent foothold in the region during the early 1990s as its civil wars wound down. At the same time, the essay looks at how Central America responded to the security threat posed by drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), which became linked to Central American gang networks. The article then assesses the problems and the impact of Central American counternarcotics policies and how they evolved into the U.S.-backed Merida Initiative. The paper ends by arguing that the War on Drugs in Central America was a legacy of, and a substitute for civil war.