HomeNewsAnalysisHow Has Coronavirus Shifted Argentina’s Drug Dynamics?
ANALYSIS

How Has Coronavirus Shifted Argentina’s Drug Dynamics?

ARGENTINA / 14 APR 2020 BY JOSEFINA SALOMÓN EN

To slow the spread of the coronavirus, Argentina — a transshipment point and growing consumer market for illegal drugs — has shut down its borders, instituted a mandatory quarantine, and sent authorities into the streets and highways.

But crime organizations, experts say, are already adapting. Here are three ways the coronavirus pandemic is changing the criminal landscape in this South American country, which could serve as a bellwether for the rest of Latin America.

1. Less Drugs Through Closed Borders?

In the past several years, Argentina has increasingly become a hub for cocaine and other drugs. Massive quantities of marijuana enter the country through its long northeastern border with Paraguay — Latin America’s top producer of illegal cannabis. The northern province of Salta serves as a gateway for cocaine.

But with its borders currently shut to most transit and commerce, and national highways dotted with security checkpoints, crime groups have been forced to double down on clandestine crossings, said Carolina Sampó, coordinator of the Center for Studies on Transnational Organized Crime (Centro de Estudios Sobre Crimen Organizado Transnacional — CeCOT) at the University of La Plata, Argentina.

“Crime groups will find it harder to move drugs internally as authorities have stepped up controls everywhere,” Sampó told InSight Crime.

SEE ALSO: Argentina Struggles to Kick Cocaine Habit: Report

Security has also tightened in Argentina’s ports and airports, which are used to smuggle drugs bound for markets in Europe, and even as far as Australia and New Zealand.

“In terms of international trafficking, this could mean that organizations need to turn to private ports with more frequency, for example, although you are still going to have more controls than before,” Sampó said.

2. Drug Prices Go Up

Argentina is also home to a growing consumer market, particularly for cocaine, marijuana and synthetic drugs.

Fewer drugs moving into the country has led to a surge in street prices. Germán de los Santos, a journalist and investigator, told InSight Crime that police have reported that cocaine prices have increased by 70 percent and marijuana prices have doubled.

“Marijuana is particularly expensive now. I suspect that because of the volume it is harder to transport,” he said.

Local drug gangs must also contend with the quarantine’s transport restrictions.

In Rosario, home to the powerful Los Monos clan, illegal private taxis have been used to  move drugs throughout the port city, de los Santos said. At a stash house, the taxis received between 150 and 200 grams of cocaine each a day, which was then distributed to motorcyclists who dropped off the drugs door-to-door, he said.

To skirt authorities, traffickers are also likely relying on food and other delivery services, which are considered essential, Clarín reported. 

3. Drug Abuse and Violence

The pandemic has clearly increased anxiety among drug consumers, Carlos Damin, the chief of toxicology at the Fernández Hospital in Buenos Aires told Clarín.

“We know that some people are not using as they have had problems in accessing cocaine or crack. But we also know that some are still consuming, so there is a way drugs are getting to them,” he said.

Violence has dropped in cities like Rosario, which has long seen bloody confrontations over the control of drug movements, including in early 2020. The peace lasting may depend on whether traffickers can still filter drugs into the country.

Recent violence in prisons has occurred after visits were banned and, with them, the flow of drugs.

SEE ALSO: Police Corruption Blamed as Bodies Pile Up in Rosario, Argentina

Poorer neighborhoods are also beginning to see a change, de los Santos said, with social leaders reporting that alcohol consumption has increased. Abuse of substances seldom seen since the 2001 economic crisis, such as glue, has also returned.

“As soon as the drugs that already in Argentina run out, that’s when tensions will arise again,” he said.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 14 NOV 2018

The launch of a new registry detailing thousands of corrupt officers removed from Argentina’s largest police force could signal a…

HOMICIDES / 5 FEB 2014

As Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres and the Venezuelan Violence Observatory battle it out over the 2013 murder figures, most…

HOMICIDES / 30 APR 2013

Murders in Venezuela reached a record high of 58 per day during the first four months of the year,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…