Splinter Group’s Rise Shows Shifts in Argentina’s Criminal Dynamics

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Authorities in Argentina have arrested the leader of a splinter group allegedly responsible for “Mexicanizing” the drug trade in Rosario, the latest indication that the country’s underworld is assuming some of the same criminal characteristics seen in places like Mexico and Colombia. 

On February 4, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich announced via Twitter the arrest of Claudio “Ranita” Insaurralde, who authorities say is the head of a group called Los Cambichos. 

Bullrich told local radio that Insaurralde was “one of the most wanted people in Rosario,” and that Los Cambichos had “replaced” Los Monos, which was widely considered to be the city’s most powerful criminal organization before more than a dozen of its leaders were arrested and later sentenced in April 2015. 

According to La Nación, many of Los Cambichos’ members worked as foot soldiers for Los Monos, and the police believe this group to be even more violent than its progenitor. A police spokesperson told news agency Télam that Los Cambichos are made up of ex-Monos “sicarios” who worked to “Mexicanize” other local criminal groups. 

InSight Crime Analysis

It is possible that Argentina is becoming a victim of its own success against high-profile drug traffickers, in the same way that Mexico has been for several years now. The Mexican government has proven adept at capturing drug lords, to the point where there are few capos who are not either dead or in jail. But this strategy has spawned a class of smaller, more violent criminal groups such as the Guerreros Unidos, who were responsible for the disappearance and likely murder of 43 students in September 2014. 

Based on the police description of Los Cambichos, it sounds like something similar is occurring in Rosario, one of Argentina’s most violent cities and a hub for local drug trafficking. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

There are other telltale indicators that Argentina’s criminal dynamics are beginning to resemble those seen in Latin American countries that have been hit the hardest by the drug trade. Last year, a former Buenos Aires police chief likened the current situation in Argentina to pre-Pablo Escobar Colombia. And like many of his counterparts across the region, President Mauricio Macri has militarized the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime. 

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