Chilean National Police crack down on drug trafficking
By Dialogo November 21, 2013
Chilean security forces recently seized more than 100 kilos of coca base, bringing the total amount of drugs seized in the Latin American country to 15 tons between January and early November 2013.
The 15 tons represents an 80 percent increase in drug seizures by the Chilean National Police, compared to the same time frame in 2012.
On Nov. 8, the OS-7 anti-narcotics unit of the Chilean National Police, known as the Carabiniers, seized 115 kilos of coca base in Iqique, in the northern part of the country.
The Carabiniers launched the investigation that led to the drug seizures in May.
Effective police work
The increase in the amount of drugs seized by Chilean security forces in 2013 reflects increased activity by international drug traffickers, and the high level of professionalism of Chilean police, according to a security analyst.
“It´s inevitable that Chile, just like any other country in Latin America, should suffer the effects of the international drug trade,” said Jeremy McDermott, director of InSight Crime, an independent research institution with headquarters in Medellin, Colombia. “This has made Chile an attractive trans-shipment point for cocaine.”
But Chile is well-equipped to deal with an increase in drug trafficking, because it has strong security forces and an effective criminal justice system, McDermott said.
“One of the advantages Chile has is strong institutions, an effective police force and low violence, which has been an ally against the penetration of international organized crime,” McDermott said.
The strong police force and effective criminal justice system make it unlikely drug trafficking will increase in Chile, he said.
“Chile remains unlikely to experience any serious growth in the influence of drug trafficking organizations, since it boasts some of the strongest political institutions in the region and lacks any notable domestic criminal structures,” McDermott explained.
In 2011, the Ministry of the Interior launched the Northern Border Plan, an initiative to improve security in the regions of Arica, Parinacota, Tarapaca and Antogagasta. The plan called for security forces to stop shipments of drugs, firearms, and other contraband by improving security along the border Chile shares with Bolivia and Peru.
In April 2013, authorities extended the initiative into the Atacama region. The Carabiniers are a key part of the effort, along with the National Police force’s investigative unit, which is known as the PDI. The Ministry of the Interior is supervising the security effort.
Authorities extended the Northern Border Plan in response to the fact that drug traffickers were extending their activities into regions south of Chile’s northern border.
“Together with Carabiniers and the PDI we have decided to extend the Northern Border Plan to the Atacama region because we have seen that drug trafficking battlefield is shifting from the northern regions such as Antofagasta and Arica [and Iqique] to more southern territories,” said Deputy Interior Minister Rodrigo Ubilla.
Drug seizures and arrests
Chilean National Police are seizing drugs and capturing suspects in all regions of the country, not just in the Northern Border area.
For example, in mid-November 2013, PDI agents arrested 11 suspects and seized more than 200 kilos of marijuana and cocaine base in the Valparaíso and Coquimbo regions. A month earlier, in October, PDI agents broke up an alleged drug trafficking ring in San Bernardo, on the southern outskirts of Santiago. PDI agents seized more than six kilos of cocaine, coca base, and marijuana, and confiscated three firearms.
The 2013 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) ranked Chile as the 18th “most frequently mentioned country of provenance" for cases involving cocaine seizures.
However, according to McDermott, this does not necessarily mean that Chile has the 18th highest level of cocaine being trafficked through the country. Since the report’s figures are dependent on cocaine seizures by authorities, it could mean that Chilean police are highly efficient and effective in seizing drugs that are being transported through the country, the security analyst said.
Broad new security plan
In June 2012, President Sebastian Pinera and Defense Minister Andres Allamand launched a 12-year national defense strategy known as ENSYD.
The plan covers issues such as drug trafficking, arms smuggling, piracy, and threats from organized crime.
The plan emphasizes the fact that drug trafficking is the primary activity of organized crime groups in Chile. The buying, selling, and transporting of cocaine represents a threat to Chile’s national security, according to the plan.
Chile remains safe
While Chilean security forces must remain vigilant, the country overall enjoys a high level of safety, McDermott said.
“One must not be alarmist,” McDermott said. “The level of crime in Chile is the lowest in Latin America. This really is a very stable and relatively safe society, certainly for the region.”
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