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Uruguay Disrupts International Narcotrafficking Organization

Uruguay Disrupts International Narcotrafficking Organization

By Juan Delgado/Diálogo
November 02, 2021

In late September, intelligence exchange between Uruguayan, Paraguayan, and Argentinean authorities dealt a blow to an international narcotrafficking organization based in Uruguay. The criminal group engaged in the transport of cocaine base paste in narco-aircraft from Paraguay to Uruguay, for later shipment to Europe, the Uruguayan Ministry of the Interior and the Argentine Ministry of Security reported in several statements.

“The operation was a triangulation of illegal drug trafficking through irregular flights that transported drugs from Paraguay to their destination in Uruguay, using Argentine territory only as a base for air logistics supply,” the Argentine Ministry of Security said in a statement.

Following six months of tracking procedures that began with information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Uruguayan National Police’s Control of Illicit Drug Trafficking Directorate (DGRIT, in Spanish), with the support of the Uruguayan Air Force, launched an operation in Artigas department that resulted in the arrest of 17 people, including the organization’s leader, the Uruguayan Ministry of the Interior indicated.

The Argentine National Gendarmerie seized two light aircraft — including a CX-IBR Beechcraft Baron — linked to a criminal group that moved drugs from Paraguay to Uruguay, in late September 2021. (Photo: Argentine National Gendarmerie)

The leader, age 33, was convicted of the crime of preparatory acts for illicit drug trafficking. In addition to the arrests, authorities seized 409 kilograms of cocaine base paste, four trucks, three cars, cash in pesos and dollars, and several weapons and rounds of ammunition, among other possessions of the organization.

In Argentina, following the operation in Uruguay, the National Gendarmerie seized two light aircraft linked to the criminal group, the Argentine Ministry of Security reported. Authorities detained three Argentine nationals and seized more than $50,000, as well as several weapons and rounds of ammunition, the Argentine Ministry of Security reported.

“[The forces] have dealt a very tough blow to narcotrafficking […]. The price of [cocaine] base paste in the market could reach $7 million,” Luis Heber, Uruguayan minister of the Interior, said in a press conference.

The Uruguayan newspaper El País reported that it was the largest cocaine base paste seizure ever made in Uruguay. The previous record was a 400 kg shipment that authorities seized in July 2020 inside two trucks in Río Negro province.

According to the international organization InSight Crime, which investigates organized crime in Latin America, narcotraffickers increasingly use Uruguay as a transit point for cocaine from Latin America to Europe and Africa.

“The diversification of cocaine routes into Europe is continuing, with traffickers using different ports to insert their cocaine into containers. Nations like Chile and Uruguay, with little history of narcotrafficking, are becoming more popular for drug traffickers,” the organization said in a February report.

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