Pope Francis has voiced his concern about the evolution of the illegal drug trade in Argentina, once again calling attention to the growing security problems facing his native country.
The head of the Catholic Church singled out Argentina during a seminar hosted by the Vatican on the issue of drug addiction, which Francis called the “new form of slavery” around the world.
“I think of my homeland: thirty years ago it was a transshipment country and now it’s a country of consumption and even of production to a certain point,” Francis said.
The Pope went on to note the important role corruption plays in facilitating drug trafficking.
“This process happens thanks to the mafia-like commitment of those in charge,” he said.
Francis also pointed out the challenges facing state institutions that attempt to combat such a large criminal industry. He told the story of one Argentine judge that he knew who began receiving threats once he began cracking down on the drug trade, according to the Catholic News Agency.
InSight Crime Analysis
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has spoken out about Argentina’s growing involvement in the illicit drug trade. Last year, he warned that the country was experiencing a “Mexicanization,” echoing the sentiments of many Argentinians fearful of rising drug violence.
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As with the Pope’s previous comments, his concern about the rise in Argentina’s domestic drug consumption appears to be well-founded. Recent statistics on local drug sales suggest micro-trafficking is growing rapidly in Argentina. One study published last year found that the percentage of Buenos Aires residents who know someone with a drug problem has risen significantly. And data from the United Nations released in 2012 point to a high consumption rate for several types of narcotics, particularly synthetic drugs among youth populations.
Francis is also correct in linking drug consumption to corruption. As InSight Crime has previously noted, Argentina’s growing domestic drug market increases profits for small-time traffickers, which in turn provides them with greater resources to co-opt local officials.