Argentine authorities have dismantled a drug trafficking ring which allegedly involved the ex-wives of two major Colombian drug traffickers, underscoring the importance of Argentina as a location for foreign gang leaders.
On April 13, police in Buenos Aires province arrested Maria Claudia Gomez, ex-wife of the deceased Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, alias “Cuchillo,” (pictured left) along with Ruth Martinez, ex-wife of Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, (pictured right). Both were detained in Nordelta gated community in the north east of the province, accused of belonging to an international drug trafficking ring that sent cocaine from Argentina to Spain, reports Argentinian news site Perfil.
The operation, named “Louis XV” because the group allegedly used antique furniture to smuggle drugs, also led to the arrest of 23 others (nine Colombians, two Spanish and 12 Argentines) along with the seizure of 280 kilos of cocaine, reports Clarin.
The group reportedly had ties to Ignacio Alvarez Meyendorff, an alleged ex-member of the Norte del Valle cartel arrested in Buenos Aires last year and thought to be linked to Barrera, and Alejandro Gracia Alvarez, the focus of police investigations into the smuggling ring.
InSight Crime Analysis
The alleged dealings between Gomez and Martinez can perhaps be traced to the alliance between their former husbands. Barrera, one of the largest traffickers in Colombia, long had ties to the Popular Revolutionary Anti-Terrorist Army of Colombia (ERPAC) in the country’s Eastern Plains prior to the group’s “demobilization” in December last year. Despite being estranged from their partners, the two women appear to have continued this alliance.
More importantly, the operation once again draws attention to Argentina as a potential haven for Colombian traffickers. The most infamous example of this came when Hector Edilson Duque Ceballos, alias “Monoteto,” a top member of the Cordillera Cartel, was shot and killed in Buenos Aires in 2008. One of the current leaders of the Urabeños, Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias “Mi Sangre,” is also reported to have spent time in Argentina between 2007 and 2008, laying low due to rivalry with criminal organizations in his home country.
Most recently, rival leaders of the Medellin-based Oficina de Envigado, the now-captured Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, alias “Valenciano,” and Erick Vargas Cardenas, alias “Sebastian,” were reported to have traveled to the Argentine city of Rosario in September last year to negotiate a truce between their warring factions.
Argentina is attractive to drug trafficking bosses for two reasons. One, many face intense pressure in their home countries, forcing them to choose somewhere else to operate from for short periods. Secondly, Argentina serves as a principal transit route for cocaine on its way to Europe, making the country strategically important for transnational criminal organizations.