Authorities in Argentina busted a large-scale synthetic drug lab, further demonstrating that domestic production of synthetic drugs is becoming more evident in the country, which is also a significant transit nation for drug smuggling.
On March 17, an anti-narcotics division of the federal police conducted 20 raids -- dubbed “Operation Rola Fest” -- throughout the Buenos Aires metropolitan area on orders from a federal judge, reported Clarin.
One raid in a Buenos Aires suburb resulted in the arrest of 13 people and the seizure of over 12,000 pills, with material to prepare at least 40,000 more. The pills have been classified as ecstasy, although their exact chemical composition is still unknown.
Police also found drug-making equipment, 150 grams of Chinese crystal meth, precursor chemicals from Brazil, Germany, and Bolivia, and a large quantity of ibuprofen used to cut the drug. According to La Nacion, an investigator said the Argentines running the lab were "in charge of the whole process, from production to final sale.”
Two of those arrested were disc jockeys, and the group was allegedly planning on selling their pills -- at a price of around $22 per dose -- during the upcoming Lollapalooza festival in San Isidro.
The operation was the result of more than seven months of investigation into the drug ring, which operated in the northern Buenos Aires metropolitan area.
Security Minister Sergio Berni described the group members as “upper-middle class” who all drove imported cars, and that they would organize private parties in wealthy areas of the Buenos Aires to market their pills.
InSight Crime Analysis
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This more recent bust comes as further evidence that Argentina is no longer just a way station for drugs passing through to somewhere else, but a growing consumer nation in its own right.
In an interview last week, Pope Francis -- again speaking on the drug trade in his native country -- expressed concern over growing drug consumption in Argentina; statements that were refuted by the president's chief of staff, who maintained the country was a drug transit (not consumer) nation.
Nonetheless, while some government officials remain in denial over the realities of Argentina’s domestic drug scene, others have acknowledged the growing problem, and have become increasingly critical of the government's efforts to confront drug trafficking.