Authorities in Chile have seized over two tons of drugs intended for domestic consumption in what officials are calling the second largest seizure in the last ten years, highlighting the supply lines for the country’s lucrative domestic market.
On August 29, Chilean authorities seized 2.4 tons of coca base and marijuana on a bus traveling from the northern municipality of Calama to capital city Santiago, reported Nacional. Authorities also discovered 533 containers of drugs on a property in the city of Pichidangui — where the bus was stopped — that had already been delivered.
The individuals arrested in conjunction with the seizure were attempting to pass themselves off as part of a mining company, reported Cooperativa. According to officials, the drugs were originally from Bolivia and were destined for the domestic market in Santiago.
InSight Crime Analysis
The recent seizure — along with a July seizure of 3 tons of marijuana and cocaine identified as the largest seizure ever of drugs bound for the domestic market — point to shifting drug trafficking patterns in Chile, and Latin America in general.
A number of countries in the region are experiencing higher levels of domestic drug consumption and micro-trafficking, a trend fuelled by transnational drug trafficking groups looking to local markets as a source of income. Micro-trafficking is attractive because it is considered low-risk, and can be used by drug cartels to finance their international operations.
In addition to serving as a transshipment point for cocaine bound for Europe, Chile has become a lucrative destination for both cocaine and Paraguayan marijuana. Sources in Paraguay told InSight Crime that while a kilo of marijuana sells for around $400 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and São Paulo, Brazil, the same amount fetches around $800 in Chile.
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According to a 2011 UNODC report (pdf), Chile is responsible for 10 percent of all cocaine consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean. Although Chile’s domestic cocaine market is smaller than markets in Argentina and Brazil, Chile has a higher prevalence of cocaine use, according to the Organization of American States 2011 Report on Drug Use in the Americas (pdf). In May 2013, Bolivian security officials also listed Chile as the primary destination for drug “mules” (carriers) leaving the country, overtaking both Argentina and Brazil.