Authorities in northern Argentina have captured a major player in the country's domestic cocaine trade, suggesting Argentine nationals are playing an increasingly important role in drug trafficking within their own country.
On October 23, police in Argentina's northern Santiago del Estero province arrested Claudio Andrada, who officials called "one of the people most responsible for cocaine trafficking in the country," reported La Nacion. Five other people were also arrested in connection with the case.
As part of the same operation, officials in nearby Cordoba province seized a truck carrying 583 kilos of cocaine, which they have linked to the group led by Andrada. According to police, the cocaine was destined for domestic sale in Buenos Aires and the surrounding area, reported Terra Colombia.
Officials said Andrada's house in Frias, Santiago del Estero, was a transit point for cocaine arriving from the northern border.
Andrada had previously been arrested in 1996 for ties to drug trafficking, but authorities were unable to build a case against him. Still, he was clearly a high-profile target: his father was kidnapped in 2003 and released after Andrada paid an estimated $300,000 ransom, and his daughter was also kidnapped in 2011, and her release only secured with $100,000 and 20 kilos of cocaine reported Clarin.
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Argentina is Latin America's second largest domestic market for cocaine after Brazil, according to the United Nations 2011 World Drug Report. It is also a primary transit point for drugs destined for Europe, and was ranked the third most common departure point for seized cocaine shipments in the 2013 edition of the same report.
The expansion of the drug trade in Argentina is becoming a major concern and a hot political issue, especially in locations such as the city of Rosario, which is emerging as the epicenter of the country's drug trade and has seen a corresponding explosion in violence, which has been blamed on turf wars waged by drug gangs.
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However, while Argentina has long been a popular base for Colombian narcos and other foreign groups such as Mexico's Zetas, there have been few examples of Argentine nationals like Andrada working at the highest levels of trafficking operations. This will almost certainly change if Argentina's booming national and international markets continue to develop, and the rise of more homegrown capos such as Andrada in the near future is highly likely.