In two operations, the Uruguayan security forces prevented the shipment of more than 1.5 tons of cocaine and dismantled a criminal gang that engaged in narcotrafficking in various parts of the country.
On March 29, Uruguayan Minister of the Interior Jorge Larrañaga announced the results of Operation Arab (Operación Árabe), which helped disrupt a criminal gang that exploited agricultural production as a cover for its narcotrafficking activities. With the support of the Uruguayan Navy, members of police forces carried out 18 raids in the departments of Montevideo, Canelones, Río Negro, Rivera, and Artigas, where they seized more than 600 kilograms of cocaine and captured 15 members of the criminal gang of Brazilian, Cuban, Paraguayan, and Uruguayan nationalities, Minister Larrañaga said.
In addition to the drugs, authorities seized more than $100,000 in cash, several weapons, eight vehicles, a tractor, and a speedboat, the Ministry of the Interior reported in a statement.
According to reports from the Uruguayan news portal Montevideo, Larrañaga said that one hypothesis is that the drug was being brought into the country in light aircraft, from which cocaine bricks were thrown into a field for later transfer to Uruguay’s coastal areas, and that the criminals used the speedboat to transport drugs to a ship on the high seas bound for Europe.
“Institutionally, this is a very strong message, because narcotrafficking was dealt a very important blow,” the minister said. “We do not want to be either a drug destination or a transit point for drug in Uruguay.”
The Ministry of the Interior’s General Directorate for the Control of Illicit Drug Trafficking and the National Police also seized 953 kg of cocaine in Montevideo in mid-March. Criminals had hidden the drug inside brand-new vehicles that had left the Port of Montevideo, and authorities seized it when the vehicles arrived at their destination, an industrial plant, the Uruguayan newspaper El País reported.
The seizure was made possible due to information that authorities received about the existence of drug packages hidden in several vehicles coming from Brazil, which were already in Uruguayan territory, the news portal Montevideo reported.
According to InSight Crime, an organization specializing in organized crime in Latin America, transnational narcotrafficking networks are increasingly using the Port of Montevideo as a bridge for the European cocaine market.