Uruguay Deals Blow to Organized Crime

Uruguay Deals Blow to Organized Crime

By Juan Delgado/Diálogo
September 02, 2020

On July 8, the Uruguayan Police, with the support of the Uruguayan Navy and Air Force, dismantled a narcotrafficking organization as part of Operation Guaraní. Law enforcement forces carried out more than 23 raids in several cities in Colonia department, as well as in Montevideo.

Authorities arrested 29 people, including leaders of the organization and drug suppliers, the Uruguayan Ministry of the Interior said in a press release published on the same day. During the operation, they also seized weapons, ammunition, drugs, vehicles, cell phones, and cash. According to Uruguayan news portal La Colonia Digital, authorities had been investigating and gathering intelligence for 11 months to support the operation.

In mid-March, the Uruguayan Armed Forces strengthened the country’s land, air, and maritime borders as part of the fight against organized crime. (Photo: Uruguayan Army)

“Over the last few months, there have been many operations against organized crime,” Uruguayan Minister of Defense Javier García said in a statement published on July 10. “The last one was yesterday [July 8], a joint operation […] that consisted of several raids and the seizure of drugs and other items.”

In another operation on April 29, in Artigas department, authorities seized 454 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride (valued at $11.3 million) and 61 kg of coca base paste, which were jettisoned from a light aircraft. Agents captured two individuals during the operation, the Ministry of the Interior said in a press release on April 30.

“This is a modality used by drug cartels to ship the substance from one place to another, and our country has paid close attention to these types of maneuvers, which is why we set up this important operation,” the Ministry of the Interior said.

Upon taking office in March 2020, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou announced measures to strengthen land, air, and maritime borders, so as to keep up the progress made in the fight against narcotrafficking in late 2019, Uruguayan newspaper El País reported.

In December 2019, Uruguayan authorities seized more than 4.4 tons of cocaine hidden in containers in the port of Montevideo that were bound for the city of Lomé in Togo, Africa. Jaime Borgiani, Uruguay’s Customs director, told El País that the finding was the largest cocaine seizure in Uruguay’s history.

In mid-March, the Uruguayan Armed forces launched patrols and reconnaissance missions at the borders, in compliance with the Border Control Act that was passed in 2018, the Ministry of Defense said on its Twitter account. Some 1,000 service members deployed to combat crime in all its forms, more particularly drugs, arms, and human trafficking, and contraband, the digital magazine Infodefensa reported.

“We are in areas where the Uruguayan State was not present before, because it’s in the middle of nowhere, where organized crime used to take advantage of the situation, and there is a deterrent effect,” García said in a press release.