HomeNewsBriefArgentina Taxi Mafias Spreading in Buenos Aires

Argentina Taxi Mafias Spreading in Buenos Aires


Argentina has dismantled a gang focused on extorting taxi drivers at Buenos Aires’ main bus station, the second such incident in 2019. This raises fears that the taxi extortion racket, most commonly associated with Guatemala or Honduras, may have found a new home.

In late September, police in Buenos Aires dismantled a criminal organization extorting taxi drivers at the city’s Retiro bus station, reported La Nación. The gang demanded between $300 and $500 per week from both regular taxi drivers and those using ride-sharing applications such as Uber if they wanted to operate from the bus station. Those who tried to work without paying these criminal gangs were frequently beaten and their vehicles were damaged, according to the ruling by Martín Yadarola, the judge overseeing the case.

The investigation began after police received an anonymous tip in April 2019 from a driver at the bus terminal. A detective from the automotive crimes division of Argentina’s federal police went undercover as a taxi driver. He was soon targeted by the gang, who stopped him from picking up passengers at the bus station, and noticed that drivers who had paid the extortion fees had their cars marked with a sticker on the rear window.

SEE ALSO: Argentina News and Profile

This was the second case of a taxi mafia in Buenos Aires this year. In February, police dismantled a similar gang operating at the capital’s Ezeiza international airport, reported Clarín. One of the nine detainees was an employee of Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, a private company that operates several airports in Argentina, including the one at Ezeiza. He had been illegally handing out contactless cards so they could enter the airport parking lot without paying any fees. The authorities also discovered the gang had maintained detailed records on drivers operating at the airport and how much money had been collected from each of them.

InSight Crime Analysis

Taxi extortion in Argentina appears to be in its nascent stage, with the gang operating directly at the bus station and airport and physically marking participating cars. In the likes of Guatemala or Honduras, such direct shake-downs are usually avoided for being too blatant. Criminals have grown more sophisticated, using public transport workers to get others to pay up or even simply using messaging apps to collect.

Extortion in the transport sector has been a go-to source of revenue for gangs such as MS13 in Guatemala, where being a public bus driver carries major risks.

This is a thriving criminal economy where, in 2017, gangs earned about $70 million a year through extortion. Moreover, around 3,100 bus drivers were murdered in Guatemala between 2001 and 2018, according to the Association of Widows of Bus Drivers (Asociación de Viudas de Piloto – AVP).

In Honduras, MS13 has gone from merely shaking down drivers to owning and controlling fleets of motorcycle taxis that function like cooperatives, reported InSight Crime. Taxi owners pay $40-$80 per month to operate on routes owned by the gang. In El Salvador, the same group has operated  a sophisticated business model where it extorted money from buses in San Salvador, and used it to legally acquire its own buses, according to an investigation by InSight Crime.

SEE ALSO: Honduras Gangs Turn to Bus Workers to Collect Extortion Fees

But murders and destruction of vehicles related to extortion have been seen elsewhere. Two buses were robbed and burnt in Mexico City in August after workers failed to meet their extortion demands. Earlier in July, two drivers were killed.

For now, fear tactics in Argentina by extortion gangs have been limited to roughing up drivers and damaging vehicles. And the police may now be on the lookout for such crimes after breaking up two gangs mere months apart. But the regional precedent of how violent these extortion rackets can become looms large.

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.


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.


Related Content


Winning a lottery prize of close to $1 million should have been a positive, life-changing event for a kindergarten and…


Cryptocurrencies were created to be the cutting edge of finance, allowing users to hold and exchange money independent of government…

BRAZIL / 1 SEP 2021

The increasing use of an instant money transfer app is driving express kidnappings in the Brazilian city of São Paulo…

About InSight Crime


Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.


InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.


Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …


InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…


Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…