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
Prev Next

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...