HomeNewsBriefArgentina Police Extorted Black Market Buenos Aires Shopkeepers: Officials
BRIEF

Argentina Police Extorted Black Market Buenos Aires Shopkeepers: Officials

ARGENTINA / 23 JUN 2017 BY CLAIRE DENNIS EN

Authorities in Argentina successfully interrupted a major extortion ring in the capital Buenos Aires, in an operation that reveals how longstanding police corruption has contributed to illegal activities in the city. 

On June 21, Buenos Aires police arrested Jorge Castillo, the so-called "king" of an infamous black market known as La Salada, on charges of "illegal exploitation of public space" and theft, according to a press release from the Buenos Aires Security Ministry.

Police detained 21 individuals, notably including one federal and two provincial police officers, and three of Castillo's family members, La Nación reported. Together the group allegedly controlled three criminal bands within the market: the "Cucos," the "Chaqueños" and the "River." The groups reportedly charged over 8,000 shopkeepers 500 pesos (about $31) a day to rent a space the equivalent of one square meter.

National Security Minister Patricia Bullrich referred to Castillo's criminal network in a tweet as a "parallel state," in which he and an "army" of criminals were able to extort small shopkeepers for exorbitant sums in collusion with local police.

The US Department of Commerce has labeled La Salada one of the "largest black markets in South America," adding that work conditions there can be "slave-like". Originally opened in 1991, the black market is known for the sale of contraband and counterfeit goods at prices up to ten times cheaper than in legal stores.

The Salada enterprise has since escalated into a national phenomenon. Thousands of "saladitas" throughout the country move about $56 billion pesos a year and account for a remarkable 45 percent of domestic trade, according to the Argentine Confederation of Small Businesses (Confederación Argentina de la Mediana Empresa - CAME).

InSight Crime Analysis:

The fact that Castillo and the criminal networks he headed allegedly worked with police to carry out their extensive extortion operations serves as a reminder of how longstanding corruption in Buenos Aires' law enforcement institutions has facilitated criminal activities in the city.

"There are no mafias that operate in Argentina without police, judicial and political complicity," stated Buenos Aires Security Minister Cristian Ritondo.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

Somewhat ironically, Castillo's networks were extorting businesses that were themselves likely operating on the margins of the law, which could have contributed to the ease with which the extortionists were able to continue bilking shopowners. Rather than shutting down these black market businesses, it appears that police were working hand in hand with criminals to take advantage of them.

The episode is yet another example of the extent of police corruption in Buenos Aires, where the new provincial police chief recently estimated that some 10 percent of the force's roughly 90,000 officers could be corrupt.

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.

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

CONTRABAND / 5 SEP 2014

A UN report puts Guatemala among the top five most violent countries in the world, with 40.6 murders for every…

ARGENTINA / 25 OCT 2013

Authorities in northern Argentina have captured a major player in the country's domestic cocaine trade, suggesting Argentine nationals are…

ARGENTINA / 31 MAY 2011

The presidents of Mexico and Argentina agreed to increase their cooperation in the fight against organized crime, signing an extradition…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

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.