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Formosa, Argentina

GEOGRAPHIC PROFILES / 15 MAR 2021 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Located on the border with Paraguay’s capital Asunción, the Formosa province is a hub for transnational marijuana trafficking and contraband. Illicit shipments enter the province through the border city of Clorinda, albeit in much smaller quantities than in Argentina’s other northeastern provinces -- Corrientes and Misiones. Drug trafficking also takes place on the banks of the Paraguay River, from where considerable quantities of marijuana are thought to head south to major cities including Rosario and Buenos Aires. 

Criminal Actors 

Governor Gildo Insfrán does not face any criminal charges, but he has been in power for 25 years and purportedly exerts tight control over all illicit activities in the province. Several of Insfrán’s relatives have been involved in drug trafficking activities. 

Criminal Economies 

Cocaine: There is minimal cocaine consumption in Formosa. The province is rather a transit point for cocaine shipments heading from Bolivia to the center of Argentina or to Buenos Aires, often bound for Europe. 

Cannabis: Formosa is an entry point for marijuana smuggled into Argentina from Paraguay. The few criminal groups that manage marijuana trafficking in the province are small in terms of personnel. There is little reported cannabis consumption in Formosa but vast quantities of the drug pass through the province as part of a regional smuggling route connecting Paraguay and Chile. 

Environmental Crime: Illegal logging and wildlife trafficking are common activities in Formosa. However, there is limited information on how the involved criminal groups operate. 

Human Trafficking: There does not appear to be a significant human trafficking dynamic in Formosa. There may well be cases not picked up on by local press due to government efforts to suppress negative media coverage. Severe underreporting by government agencies may also disguise the true scope of human trafficking in the province. 

Contraband: Items of contraband are mainly smuggled through provincial capital Formosa and Clorinda, the latter on the border with Paraguay's capital city, Asunción. Press reports suggest that amount of contraband smuggled into Formosa is far less than in other border provinces such as Misiones, Salta and Corrientes. Nonetheless, contraband represents an important part of the local economy, as a vast proportion of Formosa residents earn low salaries that can be complemented by other activities. These include contraband of textiles and electronics. Most contraband smuggling is small-scale and passes through Clorinda. InSight Crime visited this area and saw first-hand the limited border controls for monitoring the numerous vehicles that cross the border on a daily basis.

Sources: This profile is based on a field investigation in Formosa and three trips to Buenos Aires where InSight Crime interviewed officials from the Ministry of Security, the Secretariat for Comprehensive Drug Policies of Argentina (Secretaría de Políticas Integrales sobre Drogas de la Nación Argentina – Sedronar), representatives of the federal government and the sub-secretariat for drug crimes, the federal attorney’s office and provincial customs office, non-governmental organizations working on human trafficking, environmental crime and social initiatives, and a civil-society organization studying judicial systems and penal systems, most of whom requested anonymity. InSight Crime also drew from information provided by Argentina’s Interior Ministry, the Government of Formosa, the National Geographic Institutethe National Institute of Statistics and Censuses, and the Citizen Security Observatory, and local press. 

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