The trial of more than 30 members of Argentina’s most notorious and violent criminal organization, the Monos, on drug trafficking charges is likely to mark a milestone in the fight against organized crime, but it will take more than just the courts to break the group’s tight grip on power.
On September 20, 39 individuals will stand trial in a federal court in the city of Rosario for crimes ranging from organizing and producing drugs to packing and selling them as part of the infamous Monos criminal organization, reported La Capital.
The Monos, led by members of the powerful Cantero family, is one of the most infamous criminal organizations in Argentina. They mostly control drug trafficking in Rosario, a strategic port city situated on the Paraná River that acts as a transit point for drug shipments coming from neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay.
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Around a dozen of the accused standing trial are members of the Cantero family, some of whose members are already behind bars serving time for racketeering and murder charges, in addition to allegedly being part of an illicit organization.
This is the first time high-level members of the criminal organization will face justice on drug trafficking charges in Rosario, which is a federal crime in Argentina.
Here are three reasons why this trial is key for the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime in the South American nation:
1. Argentina Might be Serious About Tackling Organized Crime
The fact that authorities in Argentina decided to go ahead with the trial despite the wave of violence the Monos has unveiled in Rosario — media outlets reported 14 violent attacks against judges, prosecutors and witnesses since May — says a lot about how serious they are about stopping the criminal organization.
Judges involved in the trial have publicly expressed their fears over possible attacks during the trial. But in a country where justice is notorious for being slow, prosecutors seem determined to see the Canteros behind bars.
Local media outlets reported that national authorities are implementing an unprecedented level of security for the groundbreaking trial.
Militarized police will join local police forces in the court building and 22 of the accused will only participate in the trial via video link.
2. Justice as a Crime Fighting Tool
Using the justice system and not just security forces to tackle organized crime is a promising strategy that could prove effective in the mid- to long-term.
This is the first time high-level members of one of the most powerful and violent criminal organizations in Argentina will face federal drug trafficking charges in Rosario.
The trial is the result of a lengthy investigation dubbed “Los Patrones,” which started in 2014 and unveiled an intricate drug production and distribution network, primarily through evidence obtained from wiretaps, involving dozens of individuals.
The fact that authorities have invested so much time and resources, and have also had enough will to follow through with the case until charges were presented and trials were conducted, might act as a deterrent to other, less powerful groups who might see their actions might have consequences.
3. Justice Alone is Not Enough
As strong as the trial may seem, the fact that the weight of the evidence against the Monos members is the result of wiretaps that showed the group’s leaders — Máximo “Guille” Cantero and Jorge Emanuel “Ema” Chamorro — managed the organization from prison, while their partners — Vanesa Barrios and Jésica Lloan — led activities from the outside speaks to the levels of corruption within Argentina’s prison system.
That, coupled with the fact that nine police officers have already been sentenced to prison time for colluding with the criminal group, shows that unless deep-seated corruption within security forces and prison authorities is tackled, any progress achieved through the courts will have little impact.