Chile Makes Historic Drug Seizure as Domestic Market Grows

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Authorities in Chile have seized 3 tons of marijuana and cocaine trafficked from Bolivia in what the government is calling the largest ever seizure of narcotics bound for the domestic market, pointing to increased drug consumption in the country.

On July 5, Chile’s antinarcotics police intercepted a truck and three vans carrying the drugs in the northern region of Coquimbo, reported El Dia. The shipment, which came from Bolivia, was composed of 1.7 tons of cocaine, along with smaller quantities of cocaine paste and marijuana. Eight people were arrested during the operation.

press release from the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security stated that the shipment was the largest seizure on record destined for the domestic market, and the largest of any kind since 2000. The traffickers had attempted to disguise their vehicles as a mining convoy and were dressed in mining gear, with reflective vests and hardhats.

Chilean authorities also raided three properties in capital city Santiago as part of the operation, seizing weapons, ammunition and telecommunications equipment belonging to the alleged traffickers.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although Chile has not seen powerful drug trafficking cartels and violence on the same scale as some other countries in Latin America, the nation is used as a transshipment point for cocaine destined for Europe. There have been indications in recent years that drug trafficking into Chile is on the rise.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Chile

Bolivia is an increasingly important route for drugs moving to the southern part of the continent, including Brazil and Argentina, and the Bolivian antinarcotics force reported seizing 13.3 tons of cocaine products in the first six months of this year. In 2011, Chilean authorities identified 140 overland routes used for drug trafficking, of which 106 were along the border with Bolivia. More recently, in May 2013, Bolivian authorities identified Chile as the main destination for drug trafficking “mules” from Bolivia. 

The recent seizure suggests Chile’s domestic drug market could be growing. Although Chile’s market for cocaine is smaller than domestic markets in Brazil and Argentina, the prevalence of cocaine use among Chileans is the highest of the three nations, according to the Organization of American States 2011 Report on Drug Use in the Americas (pdf). United Nations figures (pdf) indicate that Chile accounts for 10 percent of all cocaine consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

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