Argentina Targets Landing Strips Amid Aerial Drug Trafficking Surge

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Authorities in Argentina have detected 1,400 unauthorized landing strips and are taking steps to eliminate them, showing concern over aerial drug trafficking through the country.

On June 16, Security Minister Sergio Berni said officials had identified these landing strips near Argentina’s northern border, reported EFE. The landing strips are located on private property, and while most were reportedly registered with the National Administration for Civil Aviation (ANAC) at some point, the owners have not kept the authorization up-to-date.

Police investigators said the landing strips could explain an increase in illegal flights, as some are likely used by drug traffickers.

National authorities reportedly plan to request collaboration from provincial governments in destroying unauthorized landing strips at the next Security Council meeting. 

In spite of a growing problem with air trafficking, authorities in Argentina have rejected the idea of passing a shoot down law similar to the one neighboring Bolivia passed this April, which would allow security forces to target unauthorized planes. Berni said such a measure would be unconstitutional in Argentina. 

InSight Crime Analysis

Argentina is both a transit point for drug shipments and home to South America’s second-largest domestic cocaine market. Over the last year, according to the Security Ministry, authorities have detained over 4,000 suspected drug traffickers, and seized 225 tons of marijuana and almost 20 tons of cocaine.     

In addition to employing land routes, traffickers use aerial routes to bring cocaine and marijuana from Bolivia and Paraguay. Flights typically land on clandestine airstrips in the northern border region, particularly in the provinces of Salta, Santiago del Estero, Tucuman and Jujuy. Between mid-2011 and the end of 2013, authorities detected 800 irregular flights in northern Argentina. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

While destroying unauthorized landing strips may deter some drug flights, as seen with authorities’ struggle against aerial drug trafficking in Peru, clandestine runways pop up again. Furthermore, drug traffickers can use alternate methods of unloading their cargo, such as dropping it from the sky.

The task of combatting drug flights is further complicated by the fact that, as of November 2013, Argentina only had four radar devices monitoring the northeastern border region, which only operated part time. 

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