Uruguay to Use Seized Narco Assets for Addiction Treatment

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Authorities in Uruguay have announced that funds seized from drug traffickers will be used to finance resources for people with drug addictions, exemplifying one way of using these assets to target core drivers of crime and insecurity.

The head of Uruguay’s National Drug Council (Junta Nacional de Drogas – JDN) Diego Olivera announced that the government will use funds seized from drug traffickers for the already-approved construction of a $2 million “crisis intervention facility” located in the capital city of Montevideo, El Observador reported

“We are thinking of something much more specialized because it allows all of the personnel in this emergency room to have specific training, supported by toxicology experts,” Olivera said. 

The new facility will create 16 short-stay areas where patients can remain for up to seven days, in addition to the 120 rehabilitation facilities the JND already has operating where patients can stay between three and six months, according to El Observador.

In 2005, Uruguay created a fund for the administration of property seized from drug trafficking and money laundering activities. These funds are used to finance drug use prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs, and to strengthen law enforcement and drug interdiction institutions, according to the JDN

“The resources that are seized from illicit activities are returned to society with services provided by different institutions,” Olivera told El Observador. “This is one of the great virtues of seizing assets of criminal organizations linked to drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking and other activities like corruption.”

InSight Crime Analysis 

Uruguay’s seized assets fund has previously provided interesting examples of how forfeited property can be reintegrated back into society. Since 2010, the fund has collected just over $14 million, and has helped to pay for various aspects of anti-crime efforts, even including the current Attorney General’s Office building, according to an official report obtained by El Observador. 

Seized assets are often used for the benefit of the agencies that receive the funds, which in many cases are law enforcement institutions, meaning that the money tends to be directed toward enforcement efforts.

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However, the addiction treatment center in Uruguay is an example of such resources being directed toward preventative measures instead. Prosecutor Jorge Díaz told El Observador that the new addiction treatment center is the product of a public policy aimed at “depriving organized crime of economic benefits” and using them for the “treatment and health” of those with drug addictions. 

There is some evidence that focusing on prevention efforts might be a more effective use of these seized assets — which, in some cases in the United States and elsewhere in the Americas, have been spent on obtaining expensive but minimally useful equipment, and in other cases have simply been stolen or wasted due to lax oversight.

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