CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Drugs and Revolution: The Effect of Narcotics Revenue on Rebel Group Goals

Gideon Spitzer, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Dr. Alex Weisiger

Date of this Version: 08 April 2011



This thesis seeks to answer the broad question: how does drug funding affect rebel group goals? More specifically, it explores why rebel groups reliant upon substantial narcotics-related revenue tend to be non-separatist in nature. The thesis tests three cases against five hypotheses in order gain a better understanding of the mechanisms that produce non-separatist goals among drug-funded rebel groups. This includes an examination the development of narcotics-fueled war economies, the role of state weakness in civil war, the reasons for non-separatist conflict perpetuation, as well as the discipline problems that arise as a result of a rebel group’s involvement in the drug trade. The three cases analyzed in the thesis, that of the FARC in Colombia, the Shining Path in Peru, and the Free Aceh Movement in Indonesia, present comprehensive external validation of the paper’s theoretical framework. This paper finds that state weakness, the breakdown of discipline within rebel groups, and the tendency of rebels to perpetuate conflict for profit maximization provide strong evidence of the reasons for the non-separatist nature of most drug-funded civil conflicts.


Asian Studies | Comparative Politics | Defense and Security Studies | Human Geography | Latin American Studies | Military and Veterans Studies | Other Political Science | Peace and Conflict Studies | Political Economy

Suggested Citation

Spitzer, Gideon, "Drugs and Revolution: The Effect of Narcotics Revenue on Rebel Group Goals" 08 April 2011. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 11 May 2011




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