Authorities in northern Argentina have seized a vehicle transporting 25 tons of precursor chemical sodium carbonate, highlighting the links between one of the region's key precursor producers in Argentina and the cocaine processing hub of Bolivia.
Border guards stationed in San Antonio de los Cobres, Salta province, uncovered the huge consignment after stopping a truck headed towards Bolivia on September 17, reported La Nacion.
This is the second major haul of sodium carbonate -- a controlled substance in Argentina -- discovered at the crossing in less than a month, after border guards intercepted two trucks carrying a total of 40 tons of the chemical in August.
InSight Crime Analysis
Argentina is one of the region's major producers of the precursor chemicals used in cocaine production, as well as one of the continent’s largest domestic drug markets, and a popular departure point for cocaine headed to Europe.
The destination of the chemicals seized in this case was almost certainly Bolivia, where not only is coca produced in the country processed into cocaine, but also coca base flown in from Peru. Once processed, cocaine and cocaine paste are most commonly moved to the large domestic markets and trafficking dispatch points of Argentina and Brazil.
However, there are signs that processing operations are increasingly taking place within Argentina, including the recent seizure of more than 300 kilos of cocaine and coca base, and large quantities of precursor chemicals at a lab near Rosario.
In moving operations to Argentina, traffickers get closer to the source of chemicals, which would no longer risk being seized at border checkpoints, as well as closer to Argentina's domestic market and international trafficking routes.
The apparent growth in cocaine processing operations is just one more sign of the growing influence of drug trafficking within the country, which in recent years has become a haven for international traffickers and is currently experiencing rising violence linked to criminal disputes over the drug trade.