Transnational trafficking groups are increasingly making their presence known in northern Argentina, where unmonitored border crossings and well-established transit routes have created an ideal environment for international traffickers to expand their business.
According to an investigation by Clarin, transporters ferry small amounts of cocaine across a ravine which serves as the border between Yacuiba in Bolivia and Salvador Mazza in Argentina's northern Salta province. Once compiled into larger consignments, the cocaine is moved in hidden compartments of vehicles to the organizations' established bases in Cordoba, Santa Fe and the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, from where much of it is bound for Spain and Portugal. Some small drug flights from Bolivia and Paraguay also drop drugs in Salta.
The investigation details the discovery of two "mountains" of coca leaves at a cocaine laboratory in the northern Salta town of El Sauzal, although it notes that the leaves are usually processed in Bolivia or Peru.
As stated by Clarin, many of these operations are linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel or Colombian groups, such as the Rastrojos. Claudio Izaguirre of Argentina's Antidrug Association identified six cartels operating in Argentina, including Colombians in Rosario, Mexicans in northern Buenos Aires, and Bolivians along the northern route through Salta.
InSight Crime Analysis
Rising internal demand and relatively lax controls have made Argentina one of South America's most appealing destinations for transnational trafficking organizations. Argentina serves as a major transshipment point for Europe-bound cocaine, while its high consumption rates have made domestic sales a profitable business as well.
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The country has seen the growth of trafficking networks on both micro and macro levels. As domestic demand has grown, micro-trafficking rings, some run by families, have sprung up in many of the larger cities. At the same time, transnational organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel have continued to strengthen their presence in the country, particularly in the city of Rosario, which has become one of Argentina's drug hubs.
The discovery of a laboratory in northern Argentina appears to be a natural migration capitalizing on the access to coca leaves and precursor chemicals provided by the infamous Ruta 34, the "white road" of cocaine smuggling. Authorities have also dismantled growing numbers of drug processing labs in other parts of Argentina, suggesting trafficking groups may be moving the production sides of their operations closer to sale and export points.