Argentina Cocaine Seizure Highlights Domestic Demand

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Argentine police dismantled a drug laboratory and seized 1 ton of cocaine apparently packaged for the domestic trade, underscoring the importance of Argentina’s drug market.

On June 11, police discovered a cocaine processing lab along with precursor chemicals and 1 ton of cocaine in a house in Escobar, Buenos Aires province. Though authorities couldn’t rule out that some of drug could have been intended for sale abroad, the packaging of the cocaine into “tizas,” small amounts sold on the street, point to the domestic drug trade, reported Clarin.

Seven Argentines and one Paraguayan national were arrested in the operation in Escobar.

In a separate operation on June 11 in the northwest province of Jujuy, police detained four Bolivian nationals attempting to smuggle 85 kilograms of cocaine through the country. Unlike the Escobar seizure, however, the cocaine was packaged in bricks (pictured) weighing a little over a kilo each, suggesting it could have been export-bound.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to the United Nations 2011 World Drug Report, Argentina accounts for 25 percent of cocaine use in Latin America and the Caribbean, making it the second largest market in the region after Brazil. Cheaper cocaine derivatives such as crack cocaine are gaining an increased share of the market. Some believe this has contributed to the number of drug users in the country doubling since 2007.

In an effort to combat trafficking for the domestic market, as well as smugglers using the country as a transhipment point for drugs going to Europe, Argentina has stepped up interdiction efforts over the last year. In July 2011, President Cristina Kirchner announced that a new radar system would be installed in northern Argentina to monitor drug flights into the country. While much of the cocaine entering the country is believed to come from neighboring Bolivia, the world’s third largest cocaine producer, there have been reports of Mexican cartels using clandestine airstrips for drug flights into the northern part of the country.

Argentina also announced in April that it would work with Brazil to produce Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to help monitor its borders and crack down on drug traffickers.

The country’s Congress is currently debating decriminalizing possession of drugs, including cocaine and heroin, for personal use. The bill is widely expected to pass, with judges being given the power to determine the levels that will qualify as personal consumption.

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