Authorities in Chile have intercepted 500 liters of liquid cocaine from Bolivia allegedly destined to be converted to powder form in sophisticated drug laboratories in the country's capital, Santiago, signaling an apparent expansion of drug processing in the Southern Cone nation.
According to Emol, the Chilean Police Investigations unit (PDI) confiscated the shipment and dismantled a criminal network that processed cocaine for sale in the Santiago metropolitan area. The police operation resulted in 11 arrests. The leader and supplier of the group, who is believed to be residing outside Chile, is Bolivian, reported El Deber.
The seizure of the cocaine -- which had been camouflaged as cooking oil -- followed two months of monitoring and investigations by Chile's Anti-Narcotics Brigade (BRIANT) and is one of the largest drug busts in the past 10 years in Chile. Police said the cocaine was trafficked down from Bolivia.
Police sources said at least two similar shipments of liquid cocaine were seized during investigations, reported Los Tiempos.
InSight Crime Analysis
Though Chile is today considered one of the region's most transparent and crime free nations, cocaine production has a notable place in its history, with former dictator Augusto Pinochet alleged to have organized a massive cocaine production and distribution network in the mid-1980s as a source of revenue.
Today, Chile is generally identified more as a departure point for drugs heading overseas, with a recent 1.4 ton shipment of cocaine seized in France originating in Chile's biggest port, Valparaiso. While cocaine production in communities along the border between Chile and Bolivia has been reported, processing in Chilean urban centers is not a well-documented phenomenon.
Just as processing on the border has been linked to Chile's growing domestic demand, this latest development could be a case of criminals seeing greater profit or lesser risk by shifting processing operations closer to this market. The sheer size of the cocaine shipment, however, begs the question of whether all of it was destined for internal consumption, or whether some was intended for export.
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What the discovery of cocaine processing in Santiago -- more than 1,000 kilometers from the Bolivian border -- does suggest is that criminal networks are increasingly upping their presence in the country, a trend the government has been attempting to combat in recent years.