I came across a wonderful heart-warming story this weekend that changed my opinion.
You see, there's a tiny isolated coastal village in Nicaragua, Bluefields, which is located between the U.S. and Columbia. Drug running speed boats coming from Columbia loaded with cocaine frequently encounter the U.S. Coast Guard and are forced toss their cocaine bundles overboard, both to eliminate evidence and lighten their load in an escape attempt. By luck or geography, a great deal of these bundles wash-up along the shores of Bluefields. Thus, the War on Drugs has created a financial windfall for Bluefields since each kilogram of cocaine is worth about $3500 locally and the typical 35kg bundle nets a cash sale price of $122,500. This has made the tiny village of Bluefield very wealthy.
All this wealth has had a profound change on Bluefield. The people of Bluefield put all this cash to good use, creating a bunch of new businesses and institutions, including a new school. Now all the children of Bluefield get a first-class of education. Test scores have sky-rocketed. The principal believes that almost all the students will graduate from high-school for the first time Bluefield history. This is a good thing since all the new high-tech businesses need lots of educated workers to mean the demand.
No wait that's not what happened.
"Last time bags and bags washed up, everyone [felt like] a millionaire, but that money does not last." explains Helen, who runs a university research institute in Bluefields. Asked how the locals unload their cash, she said: "Beer, beer, beer. You should see the amount they drink here. Go to the pier and see how much alcohol goes out to the islands."
"When the drugs come in, everyone is happy, the banks, the stores, everyone has cash."
Arana, the former mayor, recalled one month when the village bought 28,000 cases of beer.
At night, Bluefields wakes up. The locals wander down to Midnight Dream, a reggae bar that locals have nicknamed Baghdad Ranch because of the surreal nature of its party scene. Young black men wear baseball hats, NBA sleeveless shirts and Nike Air sneakers. They are bedecked in gold chains.
My new drinking buddy says: "I got protection," and lifts his Houston Rockets NBA shirt to show off the butt of a pistol. "You won't get thieved here."
As they say, go read the whole thing.