77% Rise in Chilean Drug Seizures

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The recent seizure of nearly 26 kilos of marijuana brings total Chilean drug seizures to more than eight tons in the first half of 2013, representing a sharp increase from the same period of the previous year.

On June 30, the anti-narcotics unit of the Carabiniers — the national police — seized 25.7 kilos of marijuana in Calama, in north Chile, as the result of an investigation begun in April. During the operation, they arrested a man suspected of leading an organization dedicated to drug trafficking and local drug distribution and also seized cash, cell phones, and various instruments used to portion the drug. Police believe that the group brought the drugs into Chile via unauthorized border crossings, reported 24 Horas

Following the latest seizure, the Carabiniers have seized 8,007 kilos of illicit drugs this year, which according to Chilean media, represents a 77.4 percent increase from the same period of 2012. In May, the Carabiniers reported a similar 74 percent increase for 2013 compared with the first five months of 2012, though did not provide figures. 

InSight Crime Analysis

According to Carabinier figures, the military police seized almost 11 tons of drugs in 2012, representing a 31 percent increase from the previous year, and current figures indicate that this is set to rise. The US State Department’s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) put total Chilean cocaine seizures for January through November 2012 at 10.19 tons, and total marijuana seizures for that period at 13.01 tons. 

The growth in seizures is indicative of Chile’s increased role as a transit and destination country for drug shipments. Bolivian anti-narcotics police claimed in May that Chile has overtaken Argentina and Brazil — the region’s major destination countries — as the main destination for cocaine smuggled from Bolivia overland via drug “mules” on buses. Chile was listed by the UNODC 2013 World Drug Report as the eighteenth “most frequently mentioned country of provenance” for cases involving cocaine seizures (of base, salts and crack).

As noted in the INCSR, Chile has “long, porous” borders with Argentina, Peru and Bolivia that pose challenges to anti-drug efforts and the country is itself a major producer of drug precursor chemicals. The country’s relative wealth also makes it an attractive consumer market; Chile accounts for 10 percent of cocaine consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the UNODC.

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