HomeNewsAnalysisOff the Beaten Path, Chile Still Caught in Drug Supply Chain
ANALYSIS

Off the Beaten Path, Chile Still Caught in Drug Supply Chain

CHILE / 3 FEB 2012 BY EDWARD FOX EN

A key source of drug precursor chemicals, and with domestic cocaine consumption that's among the highest in Latin America, Chile is quietly increasing its counter-narcotics efforts.

In two particular low-key moves in early October, the Chilean administration of Sebastian Piñera upped its anti-drug efforts with the announcement of the Northern Border Plan, and the purchase of an unknown quantity of Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, or drones). The plan, which will come into effect in 2013 at a cost of $76 million, has one simple, but very important objective, as Interior and Public Security Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter put it: to stop drugs entering Chile.

Though it has not been explicitly stated, the drones look set to form a central part of the Plan, in light of Defense Minister Andres Allemand's declaration that they would become operational within the same time frame. In addition, Allamand announced in January that Chile's new satellite, FASat-Charlie, launched in December last year, could be incorporated into the fight against trafficking.

All of these moves fall under Piñera's four-year Plan Secure Chile, a drive by the president to address crime in general, which includes specific elements to combat the country's drug problem through both enforcement measures and treatment programs for users.

Sharing a border with two of the world's top cocaine producers -- Bolivia and Peru -- makes Chile's involvement in the narcotics trade a virtual inevitability. However, unlike its northern neighbors, Chile is strictly a drug-consuming nation. With Brazil and Argentina, it accounts for two thirds of cocaine consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean. Alone, it makes up 10 percent, according to the UN's 2011 World Drug Report.

Not only does its status as a relatively wealthy consumer market make the country an attractive target for drug traffickers looking to expand their markets, but the country's geographical location and superior infrastructure make it a major transit point for drugs, particularly those coming from Bolivia. Minister Hinzpeter said last year that, of the 140 overland drug routes into Chile, 106 come from Bolivia. Furthermore, of the nearly 7 tons of cocaine seized abroad on Chilean ships between January 2009 and July 2011, the vast majority was found in Bolivian containers that had passed through Chile's ports.

Confonting Chilean authorities is also the prospect of having to control and track the movement of precursor chemicals from Chile heading north. With one of the largest petrochemical industries in the region, Chile is a prime source of chemicals used in the production of illegal narcotics. The·2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) highlighted the use of chemicals of Chilean origin in processing coca base in Peru and Bolivia, and the shipment of Chilean ephedrine to Mexico, where it is used to produce methamphetamine.

As the INCSR notes, Chile's police have been far more active in recent years with regards to narcotics control, taking part in 20 percent more drug-related operations between March and September 2010 than in the same period in 2009, while arrests for drug offenses were up 28 percent. This coincides with recent reports that crime is on the rise in Chile, with the number of crimes reported in 2011 up 10.6 percent on the previous year.

Despite the rising level of interdictions and arrests, Chile·has not covered all bases in terms of combating crime and drug trafficking. The INCSR notes the lack of funding provided to the national drug control council, CONACE (now SENDA), for its monitoring of petrochemicals. Chile's prosecutors are also underfunded, leaving them struggling to cope with rising crime.

However, Chile remains unlikely to experience any serious growth in the influence of drug trafficking organizations. It boasts some of the strongest political institutions in the region and the lowest level of corruption, according to Transparency International's 2011 ratings. It lacks, furthermore, any notable domestic criminal structures.

Chile can't change its neighbors, however, and neither the domestic demand for cocaine nor the supply from Bolivia and Peru seem likely to abate in the near future.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

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.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CHILE / 20 AUG 2021

Faced with endemic timber theft and uneven government enforcement, logging companies in Chile have agreed to new guidelines meant to…

BRAZIL / 20 FEB 2021

Drug traffickers engage in a creative game of hide and seek with coast guards and other security forces that board…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 6 AUG 2021

After a seizure of disassembled guns found in vehicles shipped from the United States to Chile, a prosecutor warned that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…