Argentina's largest ever anti-drug operation took place in Rosario this week, indicating authorities are feeling pressured to act against rising violence and crime levels in this gang-afflicted northeastern city.
On April 9, a 3,000-strong contingent of Argentina's security forces, supported by seven helicopters, conducted around 90 simultaneous raids in Rosario and detained more than 20 people, reported Spanish newspaper El Pais. The objective, said Argentine Security Minister Sergio Berni, was "to make a peaceful entry" into neighborhoods controlled by drug dealers.
According to ElDiario24, the operation was the result of several months of judicial investigations carried out by the Security Ministry, and aimed to dismantle drug groups operating from hundreds of "bunkers" -- tiny brick structures throughout Rosario where drugs are sold.
Berni said the operation sought to take down criminals operating in Rosario with a "system of terror and blood." Around 2,000 security agents will remain in the city for several months to "pacify the territory" and guarantee security, reported El Pais.
InSight Crime Analysis
As drug trafficking and violence has increased in Argentina, Rosario, the city that currently boasts the country's highest murder rate, has been particularly hard hit. Amid the presence of increasingly sophisticated gangs, growing drug production, and fighting over the local drug trade, the city has seen a sharp spike in homicides, rising 76 percent in 2013 compared with the previous year.
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While some officials remain keen to downplay the seriousness of Argentina's drug problem, the country's defense minister recently admitted it had become both a consumer and producer nation, and the arrest of a prominent publicist's brother for an attempted cocaine trafficking operation turned the public spotlight on the problem.
The problem of growing insecurity in Argentina has also been pushed to the fore by a recent wave of lynchings at the hands of civilian mobs, with at least three occurring in Rosario recently. One of these ended in the death of a teenager who tried to steal a woman's purse.
With drug violence and insecurity hot on the agenda and a frustrated population taking justice into their own hands, authorities likely felt pressured to demonstrate control over the situation and make a show of taking action. However, the question remains of whether this operation will have any lasting impact, or if it is a showy quick fix to a deep-seated problem.