Uruguay is one of Latin America's safest countries, but according to the Ministry of the Interior the country is threatened by Brazilian drug traffickers who may be making their way south. 

Sources from Uruguay's Interior Ministry told Ultimas Noticias, "There is a great fear that the [Brazilian] traffickers will begin to operate from [Uruguay]. The only way to avoid this is to increase border control and prevent their entry."

Some experts have said that due to Brazil's newly assertive security policies, in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Brazilian criminal groups are in search of a more hospitable environment. According to Uruguayan Interior Minister Eduardo Bonomi, "What can happen is that in searching for a safer area to operate from, [the Brazilian traffickers] come here. Not in order to use the Uruguayan market, but to continue their activities from a safer place."

Police officials from Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil will convene in Buenos Aires next week at their biannual meeting. Interior Ministry sources told Ultimas Noticias that Brazilian gang activity will be a major topic at the conference, adding, "We have still not observed the arrival of these traffickers [in Uruguay], but we will not wait to start acting."

InSight Crime Analysis

These statements by Uruguay's Interior Ministry follow a warning issued by Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo that Brazil's crackdown on drug gangs in the country's favelas could trigger a migration of criminals south.

While Uruguay has long been cited as one of the region's safest countries, there are some warning signs that drug trafficking and related gang violence may be increasing. Minister Bonomi's fears stretch back as far as 2010 when he warned of the internationalization of organized crime in the country, pointing to the presence of Mexican, Serbian, Colombian, and Brazilian groups.

To date, however, Uruguay has not suffered to the same extent as other countries bordering Brazil, notably Paraguay, where Brazilian gangs like the First Capital Command (PCC) and Comando Vermelho (Red Command) reportedly both have a foothold. This is largely because Uruguay is not a drug producer like Paraguay, the largest producer of marijuana in South America. Instead, Uruguay is primarily a transit country for narcotics, meaning Brazilian traffickers have less interest in setting up a permanent presence here.

However, this means Uruguay has received comparatively little attention from Brazil's $6.3 billion border security initiative that aims to crack down on drug trafficking, with most of the resources reserved for the Brazilian frontier along Bolivia and Paraguay. The Commander of the Brazilian Army South Region, General Carlos Goellner, admitted last year that the troop deployment along the Uruguay border was "soft."

Investigations

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

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...