Reports that Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias "El Chapo," lived in Argentina until March 2011 have sparked new speculation about the fugitive capo’s whereabouts.

Quoting an anonymous source in the Argentine government, Noticias Argentinas said that Guzman began living in the country with his wife and stepdaughter in 2010. The fugitive only moved on early this year after being alerted that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was pursuing an arrest order, according to the report, traveling to Paraguay, Colombia, and then Europe.

“It is believed that he used a new false identity,” the official said. “But this we can say, there are registers of his wife and stepdaughter leaving Argentina in March of this year.”

The allegation, which has not been independently confirmed, conflicts with the image of Guzman holed up in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains, protected by loyal gunmen and friendly locals. Reports of the Sinaloa kingpin going abroad have emerged periodically, but never to the extent of the latest story, which has him traveling from country to country with his family.

However, because of the pressure at home from the Calderon government’s ongoing campaign against organized crime, many Mexican gangs have shifted portions of their operations abroad. Perhaps the biggest example of this is the Zetas’ growing role in Guatemala, but Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel has been detected as far away as Malaysia and Australia. And with a number of the most notorious Mexican gangsters arrested or killed by the government in the past 18 months, it is also not inconceivable that Mexican capos would think it a safer option to take refuge outside of the country.

If so, this would mirror the pattern set by Colombian drug traffickers. Because of the improved capacity of the Colombian authorities, many capos, who a generation ago would have operated unmolested in Cali, Bogota, and Medellin, have found it more practical to operate abroad. As a result, instances of Colombians being arrested on drug charges in other regions of South America or in Mexico have become more common.

In one famous Argentine example, Hector Edilson Duque Ceballos, alias "El Monoteto," was shot to death along with a colleague in a Buenos Aires parking lot in 2008. Duque Ceballos had been one of the highest-ranking members of Colombia's Cordillera Cartel.

Mexican drug lords also have a long history in Argentina, dating back to former Juarez capo Amado Carrillo’s plans to move there in the 1990s. According to Proceso, Guzman had been building his presence in the South American nation since at least 2007, using a series of evangelical churches as fronts for his organization.

Other Mexican groups have followed Guzman into Argentina. According to Edgardo Buscaglia, a researcher with the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, members of the Tijuana Cartel are working with Guzman’s people in the country. Authorities have also uncovered evidence of the Zetas operating there, though not in tandem with Guzman.

Guzman’s work in Argentina centers primarily on the production and distribution of synthetic drugs, according to the Proceso report. This is concentrated in three poor northern provinces: Chaco, Formosa, and Misiones. As a result, Guzman’s group has easy access to Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay, including the notoriously lawless tri-border area that Argentina shares with the latter two nations. Guzman has also allegedly invested significant amounts of money in some of the largest cities in Argentina, such as Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Santa Fe.

The appeal of Argentina for drug syndicates is rooted in a number of factors. With its long coastline and busy port system, Argentina is a valuable source of important precursor chemicals for synthetic drugs from Asia. The relative weakness of state institutions in much of  its territory means that capos have little trouble in corrupting officials. Guzman, for example, was reportedly tipped off about the DEA order by a collaborator in the Argentine government. Furthermore, with more than 40 million citizens, the country also provides a significant retail market for drugs.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.