Argentina's Cordoba province has instituted a new anti-drug police force following a corruption scandal involving a previous agency, one of several recent developments indicating the challenges the country faces in addressing a growing drug problem.
Cordoba's new Anti-Narcotics Police Force (FPA) began operations on May 4 with 220 specially trained agents, reported La Nacion. The FPA -- which will answer to the provincial Attorney General's Office and conduct operations without the support of local police -- was created following revelations of ties between the province's anti-narcotics division and drug traffickers that first came to light in mid-2013.
Meanwhile, the city of Rosario in Argentina's Santa Fe province has seen a recent increase in violence attributed to a drug trafficking dispute between two rival groups, reported La Nacion. On April 29, three alleged members of the criminal group Los Monos were attacked in the latest installment of a conflict with rival gang Los Bassi that has led to 15 murders over the past two years and could be linked to another 55.
The fight against these types of local drug trafficking groups has been complicated by a number of obstacles including outdated legislation, as evidenced by a recent case in which a federal judge was forced to free two suspects in a synthetic drug trafficking investigation because the drugs they allegedly sold were not on the country's list of controlled substances. The judge in question stated that the list is "alarmingly outdated," reported La Nacion.
InSight Crime Analysis
Argentina has become increasingly important in the regional drug trade -- as a transshipment point, base of operations for foreign criminals, and as a consumer nation -- and so new challenges have arisen for law enforcement. Chief among these is corruption in the form of ties between criminal groups and officials, as seen in accusations of criminal activity involving the Buenos Aires police and the alleged role of the country's former anti-drug czar in facilitating the importation of ephedrine, a substance used to produce methamphetamine.
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Argentine authorities have also run into obstacles in the prosecution of local criminal groups. In spite of their alleged role in a series of murders in Rosario, 18 members of Los Monos received surprisingly light sentences in April in part because of the inability of prosecutors to gather and present enough evidence. The vulnerability of the judicial system was also in evidence as the judge originally overseeing the case stepped down in September 2014 after a photo surfaced showing him at a boxing match with the father of a Los Monos member.
Similarly, Argentine authorities have had trouble keeping up with developments in the country's synthetic drug trade. Amid signs of growing synthetic drug production, new drugs have emerged that contain unregulated substances, making it more difficult for authorities to prosecute the groups dedicated to their production and distribution.