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Corrientes, Argentina

GEOGRAPHIC PROFILES / 15 MAR 2021 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Corrientes is a key hub of Argentina’s highly profitable marijuana trade. The province appears to be the second most important entry point for Paraguayan marijuana after Misiones, and most drugs entering Misiones transit Corrientes to reach consumption centers. These drug flows entail a deep penetration of state institutions by organized crime.  

Contraband smuggling and environmental crimes are also important illegal economies in the province. In addition, Corrientes is a recruitment point for human trafficking victims exploited elsewhere in the country.

Criminal Actors 

Carlos Alberto Barreiro: Known by his alias “Cachito,” Barreiro led a criminal network that at one point trafficked more than six tons of marijuana a week from Paraguay into Argentina. He managed operations from a prison cell in the Chaco province. 

Luis Saucedo: Known by his alias “Gordo,” Saucedo was also involved in the same criminal network that trafficked vast quantities of marijuana from Paraguay into Argentina. 

Federico Marín: Known by his alias “Morenita,” Marín played a leading role in the same criminal network as Carlos Barreiro.  

Criminal Economies 

Arms Trafficking: There are very few cases of arms trafficking in Argentina. This is no different in Corrientes, where there is minimal information on illegally acquired firearms in press reports. In 2016, some reports suggested an increase in firearms trafficking. Authorities also discovered that some arms were even produced in Argentina. However, there is no evidence of a significant arms trafficking trade in Corrientes. 

Cocaine: Cocaine trafficking is common in Corrientes and is far more lucrative than marijuana smuggling. Some traffickers will exchange marijuana to obtain cocaine. There are, however, no clear figures on the size of this criminal economy in the province. 

Cannabis: Cannabis seizures are common, and authorities frequently incinerate vast quantities of the drug. Corrientes is a key entry point for cannabis shipments sent from Paraguay. The drug is then distributed to other provinces with more lucrative consumption markets, such as Buenos Aires and Santa Fe. A smuggling ring in Itaití succeeded in trafficking more than six tons of marijuana a week from Paraguay into Argentina.  

Environmental Crime: Fauna trafficking is constant in Corrientes because of the popularity of exotic pets in northern Argentina. There are many endangered species in the province. But this remains a small criminal economy. 

Human Trafficking: In 2017, around 400 human trafficking victims were rescued in Corrientes. Despite this, information on this criminal economy is scarce. In general, provinces and border zones in northern Argentina function as recruitment centers for trafficking victims. A concentrated state effort to prevent human trafficking appears to have reduced reported cases in recent years, but this appears to be a sizeable criminal economy. 

Contraband: Contraband smuggling on the Paraná river, separating Corrientes and Paraguay, is constant. Tax variations between both countries generate an economic incentive for both large and small-scale contraband smuggling in Corrientes. Items of contraband are smuggled from Paraguay into Corrientes through towns such as Paso de la Patria and Ituzaingó -- both on the Paraná River. The recent devaluation of the Argentinian Peso against the US Dollar and the country’s ongoing economic crisis has also led to a decrease in the amount of contraband in the province. Contraband of cigarettes, however, remains high.   

Sources: This profile is based on a field investigation in ItatíCorrientes, and three trips to Buenos Aires where InSight Crime interviewed officials from the Ministry of Security, the Secretariat for Comprehensive Drug Polices of Argentina (Secretaría de Políticas Integrales sobre Drogas de la Nación Argentina – Sedronar), non-governmental organizations working on human trafficking, environmental crime, social initiatives, and civil-society organization studying judicial systems and penal systems, most of whom requested anonymity. InSight Crime also drew on information provided by the Interior Ministry, the Government of Corrientes, the National Geography Institute and the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses, and local press. 

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