Liquid Cocaine Operation Mark of Argentina’s Evolving Underworld

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Authorities in Argentina have disbanded a group linked to the Sinaloa Cartel that trafficked liquid cocaine from Argentina to Mexico, providing further evidence the South American nation is increasingly a hub for sophisticated transnational drug traffickers. 

Security Secretary Sergio Berni said nine people had been arrested during the operation, and a large amount of weaponry was seized, reported El Diario de Juarez. A Mexican chemist and several Argentine police officials were among those arrested, according to BBC Mundo.

In early May it was reported that a 2,360 kilo cocaine shipment was seized by Mexican authorities in Yucatan state’s port of Progreso, having originated in Buenos Aires. The drug cargo, worth $40 million, had been diluted in special industrial oil concealed in lighting transformers, allowing the shipment to pass undetected through customs scanners in both countries, reported Argentina’s Ministry of Security.

Berni, who heads that ministry, stated the group “transported cocaine from Argentina, stopping over in Mexico City, to then presumably be distributed in Europe or the United States.”

This is the second seizure of its kind to be made on Argentine territory this year after a 600 kilo shipment of liquid cocaine was found in a tanker truck travelling from Bolivia to Chile on February 16.

InSight Crime Analysis

The activities of this group in producing and exporting liquid cocaine — which requires chemical expertise to both dilute and extract the drugs at each end of the journey — is yet another illustration of the evolution of organized crime in Argentina.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

While it is unclear to what extent the Sinaloa Cartel was involved, there are signs Mexican cartels are taking an increasing interest in the country. The presence of a Mexican chemist suggests the group may have been providing technical assistance, not just buying the shipments. The fact it involved several corrupt officials also points to a professional operation.

The use of liquid cocaine appears to be increasingly popular among Latin American criminal groups, as it is more easily hidden from customs checks. In past cases, it has been absorbed in clothing or frozen, while a bust in Bolivia in January highlighted its use by drug mules, rather than traditional capsules of powder.

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