Customs officials in Argentina have seized 40 percent more cocaine so far this year when compared to the same period in 2011, illustrating the country's increasing importance as a both a market and transit point in the regional drug trade.
On October 25, La Nacion reported that Argentina's revenue and customs authority, AFIP, destroyed more than half a ton of cocaine that was seized in Buenos Aires International Airport in July from a flight bound for Nigeria. According to AFIP officials, the operation is indicative of a growing trend, with cocaine seizures on the rise. The amount of cocaine detained by customs authorities -- 1.9 metric tons -- so far in 2012 has risen by 40 percent compared to the same period last year.
The amount of marijuana seized has risen slightly as well, with the AFIP reporting 5.5 tons of the drug seized this year compared to 5.4 in 2011.
InSight Crime Analysis
Because the AFIP figures only include drug seizures by customs agents, the total amount of cocaine seized in the country is likely higher. In 2011 the Argentine government seized more than 6 tons of the drug, a record figure in the country.
The uptick in seizures points to the country's growing profile as a drug trafficking hub. In addition to serving as a key transit point to West Africa and the growing European cocaine market, Argentina is the second largest domestic market for cocaine in Latin America after Brazil, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The country accounts for some 25 percent of cocaine use in the region, partly due to the growing popularity of a form of crack cocaine known as "paco."
Argentina's emergence as a key player in the illicit drug trade has prompted concerns about the presence of transnational criminal organizations. There is evidence to suggest that the country has become a refuge for drug kingpins, as illustrated by the April assassination of a former lieutenant of Colombian crime boss Daniel " El Loco" Barrera and reports that Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman lived in the country for part of 2011. This issue is especially concerning given the high level of corruption in Argentina's police force, which could potentially leave the country vulnerable to the influence of organized crime.