Authorities in Argentina have made the largest marijuana seizure in the country’s history even as drug trafficking groups target journalists and political officials, underscoring the country’s growing role as a drug transit and consumption nation.
On November 8, Argentina’s gendarmerie stopped a vehicle carrying over 8.5 tons of marijuana in the northwestern province of Corrientes, reported Clarin. The drugs were discovered in boxes of car parts and the driver, a Paraguayan national, was in possession of fake customs papers from Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.
National Security Secretary Sergio Berni said the shipment had originated in Paraguay and was headed to Chile, where it could be sold for three to four times its value in Argentina, reported Infobae.
An anonymous security source told Clarin that the fact that the drugs were not well hidden made authorities suspect the traffickers may have been working with corrupt elements of the Chilean or Paraguayan police.
Two days after authorities announced the seizure, a journalist in the province of Rosario reported receiving death threats following the publication of a series of articles on drug trafficking groups.
Authorities in Argentina have also confirmed that the 2013 assassination attempt against Antonio Bonfatti, the governor of Santa Fe province, was ordered by drug traffickers, reported Clarin.
InSight Crime Analysis
The massive size of the marijuana seizure highlights Argentina’s growing role as a drug transit nation. A recent report from The Associated Press indicated that an increasing quantity of drugs is moving through the country, with 2014 figures on track to surpass totals from previous years.
Part of the growth is undoubtedly due to Argentina’s location between South America’s largest marijuana producer — Paraguay — and the continent’s most lucrative marijuana market, that of Chile. Whereas a kilo of high-quality marijuana sells for between $300 and $500 dollars in Buenos Aires, the same amount can fetch up to $1000 in Chile. According to Berni, the gendarmerie has seized almost 80 tons of marijuana so far this year.
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Luis Rojas, the head of Paraguay’s anti-drug agency, told InSight Crime in August that Paraguayans are often involved in trafficking marijuana to Chile. This assertion is supported by the recent seizure, in which the driver of the shipment was a Paraguayan national. The fact that such a large quantity was being transported in one vehicle also suggests that it was a tried and tested route, another indication that corrupt law enforcement officials may have been involved.
Meanwhile, evidence that the assassination attempt against Bonfatti was ordered by drug traffickers and threats against the journalist in Rosario indicate that as Argentina’s role in the drug trade increases, local criminal groups are becoming more sophisticated, ambitious and powerful, and feeling strong enough to target journalists and public officials.