Guinea-Bissau: Micro-State to “Narco-State”

It is no surprise that Guinea-Bissau, with a population of less than two million and a GDP of just $7.5 billion, receives little attention from scholars. This excellent collection of essays on the West African country’s complicated politics is the first comprehensive English-language study of the topic to appear in more than a decade. Guinea-Bissau has weathered an unstable democracy since 1994, when it held its first multiparty elections. A brief civil war broke out in 1998–99; since then, there have been a number of military coups. Taken together, the essays collected here do a better job of describing the country’s political environment than of explaining the persistence of its toxic mixture of extreme poverty, weak state capacity, and rapacious elites. But a number of them usefully examine Guinea-Bissau’s transformation into a “narco-state,” the result of collusion between authorities and Latin American drug cartels, which has turned the country into a significant way station along the routes of the international drug trade.

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