Argentinian security forces crack down on methamphetamine production
By Dialogo December 16, 2013
Organized crime groups, including Mexican drug cartels, are producing larger amounts of methamphetamines in Argentina, authorities said.
The country is also an important transshipment point for chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamines. Ephedrine can be used legally in Argentina to make cold medicines and cough syrup. However, organized crime groups use ephedrine to produce methamphetamine.
Argentine security forces dismantle meth laboratories
Since 2010, security forces have dismantled dozens of methamphetamine labs in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Salta, and Tucumán, as well as the city of Buenos Aires, according to Argentina’s Secretary for Drug Addiction and Prevention.
The Argentine Armed Forces, cooperating with local police agents, shut down at least 43 of these laboratories in 2012 alone, authorities said.
Security forces keep violence in check
Argentina has not experienced a dramatic increase in high levels of violence related to drug trafficking, thanks in large part to the efforts of security forces. The lack of violence may be attractive to organized crime leaders who want to produce and transport drugs without engaging in bloody battles with rivals or security forces, a security analyst said.
For drug traffickers, “the advantage in this country is that violence has not ensued with the trade of these drugs,” said Yadira Gálvez, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
The Sinaloa Cartel, which is led by fugitive kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, operates in Argentina. The transnational criminal organization has alliances with local gangs in Argentina, according to security analysts. The Sinaloa Cartel typically smuggles methamphetamines from Argentina to other Latin American countries, the United States, or Europe on commercial flights, Gálvez said. Some Argentine gangs are also allied with Colombian drug traffickers.
“The problem now that is being detected is that provinces in northern Argentina are engaged in producing (drugs) that are no longer destined to only Europe (or Mexico and the United States), but to Latin American countries themselves,” Gálvez said.
Smuggling drugs in luggage
El Chapo and other drug traffickers often smuggle cocaine or methamphetamines from Argentina into Mexico in airplane luggage, sometimes without the knowledge of the traveler who owns the luggage.
For example, in November 2012, Ernesto de la Torre, a Mexican national, flew home following a vacation in Argentina. At Mexico City International Airport, security forces discovered that his luggage had been replaced with luggage which contained at least 10 kilos of cocaine. De la Torre had departed from Ministro Pistarini Airport in Buenos Aires on a Chile Airlines flight which made a stop in Lima, Peru, before proceeding to Mexico.
Authorities detained de la Torre for about 10 hours, then released him after determining the luggage containing the cocaine did not belong to him, but had been placed on the airplane in his name.
Argentine organized crime groups work with Mexican drug cartels
Among the criminal groups which are allied with Colombian drug traffickers are the Santa Fe and El Cerrito gangs. A gang which operates in the Puerto Madero region works with the Sinaloa Cartel.
In August 2012, security forces in Argentina captured members of a drug trafficking gang which had connections to organized crime operatives in Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay.
Federal and local police forces arrested 12 suspects, including nine Colombians, two Argentinians, and a Peruvian national. The security forces seized more than 100 kilos of cocaine in Buenos Aires.
The drug trafficking group was allegedly led by John Eduard Martinez Grajalas, a Colombian organized crime operative who is known as “The Doctor.”
The Doctor has connections to at least two Colombian gangs which engage in drug trafficking, the Urabenos and Los Machos, authorities said.
Improving security in the air
In recent years, Argentinian authorities have taken strong steps to improve security in the country’s border regions and in its airspace.
For example, the National Gendarmerie, in cooperation with the Argentine Air Force, installed new military radars in various parts of the country to detect small aircraft which may be smuggling drugs.
The radars were purchased in 2010 at the request of the then Defense Minister, Nilda Garré. Argentina purchased radar equipment from Spain. The equipment is used along Argentina’s northern border.
In July 2011, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner launched Operation Northern Shield, in which sophisticated radar equipment was installed in the country’s northern border region. Since July 2011, Argentine security forces have detected more than 800 illegal flights in the country’s airspace. Of those, 242 were related to drug trafficking, officials said.
“Currently, 4500 troops from the Argentine Armed Forces (FFAA), mainly from the Army, will be involved in surveillance and control tasks of the northern border, which includes the provinces of Jujuy, Salta, Formosa, Corrientes and Misiones,” Defense Minister Agustín Rossi has said.
Between January and September 2013, Operation Northern Shield led to the seizure of 52 tons of marijuana along the northern border of the country.
Since July 2011, Argentine security forces have detectied more than 800 illegal flights in the country’s airspace. Of those, 242 were related to drug trafficking, officials said .