A former government advisor has asserted that corrupt officials have allowed a Peruvian-run criminal group to flourish in Buenos Aires and produce millions of dollars worth of cocaine.
The criminal group has roughly 300 members and controls 15 blocks in Buenos Aires, from which it produces and distributes drugs, Jorge Rodriguez, former advisor to Argentina's Security Ministry, said in an interview with local newspaper El Tribuno.
Although it began with small-scale cocaine smuggling, the group now operates 12 labs in Buenos Aires, which produce powdered cocaine and a form of crack cocaine know locally as "paco." Supplied by coca paste from Bolivia, the labs can produce a combined total of up to $2 million worth of drugs per day, Rodriguez said.
"This is a complex production that could not be done without Peruvian know-how and the support of elements within the government," Rodriguez told the newspaper. The former advisor went on to claim that the criminal group was paying a high-ranking Argentine security official upwards of $2 million for protection.
Rodriguez was responsible for investigating Buenos Aires' drug trafficking groups and their connections with the police between 2011 and 2013. He has previously said that he produced hundreds of reports about the city's drug trade and police corruption, and that "no one did absolutely anything with my work." He now works for an Argentine non-governmental organization, which published a report earlier this year describing the operations of the alleged Peruvian criminal group and its cocaine labs.
According to Rodriguez, 30 to 50 percent of the criminal group's drug production goes to foreign markets, contributing to Argentina's rank as the world's third-largest exporter of narcotics. Shipments are largely handled by Mexican and Italian groups, who move planes loaded with cocaine into North Africa, and then smuggle the drugs into Europe, he said.
InSight Crime Analysis
While Rodriguez' claims must be weighed against any possible grudge he may have with his previous employers, many of the former advisor's assertions coincide with documented changes in Argentina's drug trade.
InSight Crime has previously noted the increased importance of Argentina and Brazil as export points for Bolivian and Peruvian cocaine moving to Europe through North Africa.
SEE ALSO: Bolivia the Drug Hub
At the same time, both of these export nations have seen their domestic drug consumption increase. This growing market has created a lucrative trade in Argentina, which foreign criminal groups are reported to be violently competing over.
Particularly concerning is Rodriguez' claim that drug traffickers are operating under the protection of corrupt security officials. Investigating and punishing corrupt officials is key if Argentina hopes to address its growing involvement in the drug trade, which has been linked to a steady rise in homicides over the last five years.