Drug consumption and seizures are rising in Argentina

Rising cocaine seizures in Argentina coupled with growing concerns about domestic consumption could be signs that the Andean nation may be headed down a similar path as Brazil, although questions remain.

Cocaine seizures in Argentina have increased at an alarming rate in 2017. In just the first three months of the year, authorities seized 1,678 kilograms of cocaine, nearly double the 840 kilograms that authorities nabbed during the first six months of 2016, according to figures from Argentina's Ministry of Security (Ministerio de Seguridad), reported by Clarín.

Argentina has increasingly become a key transshipment link for South America's cocaine trade. In 2015, federal forces seized 4,300 kilograms of cocaine, a figure that increased by 28 percent in 2016 after 5,500 kilograms of cocaine was impounded, according to Clarín.

Brazil remains the largest cocaine consuming nation in Latin America, but Argentina has also seen an increase in it's domestic trafficking market and local consumption in recent years. Still, it is unclear whether this is a result of the authorities doing a better job at combatting drug trafficking, or an increase in the amount of cocaine flowing through the country.

To find out, the Ministry of Security is launching a pilot program, "Price, Purity and Power of Narcotics" to determine if anti-narcotic operations have been efficient, according to Clarín.

The program will target two main factors: the price of a gram of cocaine and the purity of cocaine seized by authorities.

Authorities calculate that if the purity is high and the price is stable, there is an abundance of supply in the market, suggesting that authorities are falling short in their anti-drug operations. But if purity is low and prices are high, this would suggest that supply is low and law enforcement is indeed having an effect.

Nonetheless, authorities recognize that they will need to collect this data for several years to draw any firm conclusions.

InSight Crime Analysis

A number of similarities suggest Argentina could be going the way of Brazil in terms of drug consumption, security and the development of organized crime groups.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

Brazil is a key departure point for cocaine destined for global markets, and Argentina is also a departure point for the drug leaving South America for transportation to Europe, according to the 2017 World Drug Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

As a result, both countries are battling with increasing consumption rates. Brazil has the second largest consumer market for cocaine and its derivatives in the world after the US. Roughly half of Argentines surveyed for a 2015 report felt the nation had a high level of drug abuse. In 2016, 50 percent of drug-related judicial cases in Argentina were for personal possession or consumption.

Fueling this growth in consumption is a rise in microtrafficking, which has steadily increased since 2010, according to a study from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (Universidad Cátolica Argentina - UCA). While just 30 percent of respondents said they witnessed drug trafficking activities in their neighborhood in 2010, nearly half of Argentines surveyed said they had in 2016.

In Brazil, open-air drug markets are helping to facilitate microtrafficking. In these so-called 'cracklands,' primarily in favelas located in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, coca paste and crack are sold in bulk at very low prices. As these markets have developed in Brazil, so have battles to control them, which may serve as a warning sign of what is to come as those markets expand in Argentina.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profiles

However, there is a key difference between Brazil and Argentina: their criminal landscapes.

Powerful Brazilian organized crime groups have historically worked with Colombian cartels in the cocaine trade. Today, the country's oldest criminal group, the Red Command (Comando Vermelho), is now thought to be expanding its domestic operations along with the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC) in an attempt to better control the regional drug trade.

Most recently, after a series of criminal acts attributed to the two groups, a number of alleged members of the Red Command were arrested in Bolivia, which Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero suggested was an attempt by the group and the PCC to carry out operations aimed at "monopolizing the control of drugs" in the region. And increased violence along the Brazil-Paraguay border has raised concerns about an ongoing battle for drug trafficking routes in the area.

On the other hand, the major criminal syndicates that have been identified as operating in Argentina are primarily from Mexico and Colombia, and are known to have a presence there largely in part to its strategic role as a transit point. However, small, loosely organized domestic crime groups have typically controlled the regional drug trade in Argentina's interior as multinational groups have typically operated in the border regions.

As cocaine continues to flood Argentina, the country's domestic organized crime groups could seek to expand their operations with hopes of controlling more of the regional drug trade.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...