Drug wars collateral damage: US counternarcotic aid and human rights in the Americas

Horace A. Bartilow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Existing case-study research suggests that the recent increase in human rights violations in Latin America is attributed to the US-funded drug war. This narrative, which is referred to as the collateral damage perspective, stands in contrast to US hum an rights law, which makes governments' respect for human rights a precondition to receive aid. The apparent endogeneity between aid and human rights introduces bias that casts serious doubts on the validity of the collateral damage narrative. In addressing endogeneity, this article presents a simultaneous instrumental variable analysis of the human rights effects of US counternarcotic aid in the Americas. The results show that while counternarcotic aid to regimes increases overall violations of human rights, this effect is greater among democracies than autocracies. And with the exception of torture, this finding is consistent when disappearances, political imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings are also considered. The implication of this research suggests that policy makers in Washington risk losing regional support for US drug control policies if US laws that govern the allocation of aid are not effectively implemented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-46
Number of pages23
JournalLatin American Research Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Cultural Studies
  • Development
  • Anthropology
  • General
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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