Argentina Creates Office to Combat Rising Drug Trade

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Argentina has approved the creation of a special unit to facilitate the fight against drug trafficking as the government looks to tackle the rapid evolution and growing sophistication of the country’s drug trade.

The Anti-Drug Trafficking Sub-secretariat, approved by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, will be housed under the Security Ministry and will serve as the body that coordinates national security forces in the fight against drug trafficking, reported La Nacion. Nicolas Dapena Fernandez, a lawyer from the Salta province, will head the new entity.

A central role of the office will be to coordinate a consistent exchange of information on drug related investigations between the four federal security forces — the Federal Police, the National Gendarmerie, the Naval Prefecture, and the Airport Security Police (PSA). Currently, each of these bodies has its own system for analyzing drug-related cases, and little information is shared between them.

The office will also be responsible for clearly defining the anti-drug roles of each of the four security forces. One proposal is that the gendarmerie and navy would be assigned responsibility for investigations regarding organic drugs, cocaine, and marijuana, while the police would take on synthetic drug networks.

Provincial police forces will still be expected to combat local drug sales networks.

InSight Crime Analysis

The creation of the new anti-drug office comes as the growth of Argentina’s drug trade has led officials to publicly acknowledge the seriousness of the country’s problem with organized crime. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

As Mexican drug cartels have become more deeply rooted and transit has increased through the country, there has been a simultaneous rise of independent “narco-clans” that control local distribution networks and, according to La Nacion, bear similarities to Bolivian drug groups. Some of these clans have shown signs of sophistication, running hired assassin rings, threatening public officials and journalists and becoming involved in drug production.

One of these, Los Monos, is among those thought responsible for rising violence in the northeastern city of Rosario during 2013, as gangs battled for control of drug turf.

According to the US State Department, despite police reforms, Argentina’s anti-drug efforts continue to suffer from a lack of coordination at both a federal and provincial level — something this latest move clearly aims to address. However, it will also be necessary to tackle institutional weaknesses, and in particular corruption, for this strategy to be effective.

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