Argentine and US officials have signed a series of agreements strengthening bilateral efforts to combat organized crime, as Argentina’s new president moves to curb the country’s growing drug trade.
The agreements include a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Argentina’s Financial Information Unit (Unidad Información Financiera – UIF) and the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
The MOU facilitates the sharing of financial information between the two countries in order to combat money laundering and organized crime. FinCEN suspended information sharing in 2015 after Argentina’s government allegedly used US financial intelligence for political ends.
Argentina’s Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said the agreements “represent a new way of working together and show an important change in our relations.”
During a press conference with Argentine President Mauricio Macri on March 23, Obama expressed support for Argentina’s efforts to combat drug trafficking and organized crime, reported La Nacion. Macri likewise said he looked forward to working with the United States to confront the drug trade.
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The new agreements, along with Obama’s visit, may signal a turning point in Argentina’s security relationship with the US. Elected last November, Macri has already begun efforts to revitalize bilateral relations, which grew frosty under the administration of his predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
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Improved US-Argentina security cooperation could also help Macri make good on his campaign promise to take swift action against organized crime and drug trafficking. These issues have become a growing concern for Argentines alarmed over increasing drug use and drug-related violence in recent years.
In tandem with Argentina’s growing role in the drug trade, the country has become an important money laundering center. Recent money laundering scandals include HSBC bank and a contractor linked to the Kirchner administration. The new information sharing agreements with FinCEN may reflect an understanding on Argentina’s part that in order to dismantle organized crime groups, authorities will have to target their financial structures.