The Counternarcotics Brigade of Chile’s Investigative Police (PDI), together with the Office of the Prosecutor of Arica and Parinacota, seized 1.5 tons of drugs during Operation Northern Scorpion. In an April 23 statement, the PDI said the drugs came from Bolivia and Peru and were to be sold in central Chile.
In addition to the 1,447 kilograms of marijuana, 20 kg of cocaine paste, and 10 kg of cocaine, authorities seized three vehicles and communications equipment, Chilean news site Bio-Bío reported. Three Chileans and a Colombian were arrested in the operation, the PDI added. Two of the criminals ran the gang from Santiago, coordinating drug shipments from the northern border with Peru and Bolivia.
Once in Chile, the drug traffickers would travel overland to the arid town of Alto Hospicio, Iquique province, where they would store the shipments in different properties. “However, this was only to await further instructions, as the mission was to continue to the final destination in the metropolitan region, where it would be sold on the black market,” the PDI told the press.
Investigations to arrest the rest of the organization, which maintains connections abroad, are ongoing, said Inspector Claudia Domínguez, chief of the PDI’s Arica and Parinacota police region.
Narcotrafficking from Bolivia and Peru into Chile has increased in recent years. “Especially in the north of Chile, the porosity of the border makes it easier for criminal gangs to establish themselves with their business model, which is usually a kind of franchise, and they take advantage of people in extreme poverty,” Guillermo Holzmann, a Chilean defense analyst and academic at the School of Economic and Administrative Sciences of the University of Valparaíso, told Diálogo. “Often times these people are subjected to co-optation by gangs.”
These criminals cause violent crime rates to rise, including murders, says Holzmann. According to figures from the Attorney General’s Office, in the last five years, murders have increased by 125 percent in the Arica and Parinacota region; by 179 percent in Antofagasta; and by 240 percent in Tarapacá.
“There are those in charge of logistics, of distribution routes, in charge of purchasing vehicles,” Holzmann added. “It’s a very organized business model; at the top is the laundering of money and assets.”
Following the murder of a Carabinero in early May in the central Chilean province of Diguillín, Chilean President Gabriel Boric pledged to put an end to the violence. “Truly this is not going to be easy, but you should know that from the government we are going to give our best to stop this wave of violence and that we will not rest until we have peace and social cohesion,” the president told the press.
In late April, U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command, visited Chile and met with Chile’s Minister of National Defense Maya Fernández, General Guillermo Paiva, head of Chile’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and leaders of the Armed Forces to discuss deepening cooperation in security and defense matters between both countries.
“My main objective during the visits was to listen to our partners, better understand their goals and challenges, consider their ideas, and seek new opportunities to collaborate in support of our common interests,” Gen. Richardson said in an interview with Argentine news site Infobae.