Authorities in Argentina have said a 60 percent rise in murders in the city of Mendoza is linked to the drug trade, following a nationwide pattern of rising violence as transnational organized crime takes root and local criminal groups evolve.
Between January 1 and June 18 this year, 88 murders were registered in Mendoza in west Argentina, compared to just 55 in the same months in 2013, reported La Nacion. Murders for 2014 are now on track to surpass the 141 murders seen in 2012, a high of recent years.
Mendoza Police Chief Juan Carlos Caleri said the majority of the homicides occurred among acquaintances and took place during the first three months of the year when the drug gangs were "at their peak," both factors that contribute to the idea drug disputes were partly responsible for the rise.
Two cases that stood out this year were the the murder of Cristian Gelvez, the husband of a local drug gang leader, and that of Daiana Reynoso, a young woman who was discovered with several bullet holes in her body, signs of torture, and a plastic bag over her head. Her husband had been killed in a similar manner just a month before and investigators believe the killings could be linked to drug trafficking.
InSight Crime Analysis
As foreign organized crime has become more established in Argentina and drug transit through the country has risen, a significant domestic market for cocaine and its derivatives has developed, leading to the emergence of increasingly sophisticated and violent homegrown criminal organizations. The epicenter of this has been the northeastern city at the end of the infamous Ruta 34 "cocaine highway," Rosario, where drug gang disputes have led to an unprecedented spike in murders.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina
Mendoza, on the Chilean border, is removed from the principal land route used to traffic cocaine into Argentina from Bolivia. Nonetheless, there are indications a significant local market exists, and there have been signs of a somewhat sophisticated drug gang presence. A group known as "Yaqui's Little Angels," allegedly run by a woman nicknamed "Yaqui" who was arrested earlier this year, reportedly operated with a network of teenage assassins and at one point attacked journalists who had published details of the group's structure.