A report on the drug trade in Argentina offers new evidence of the country’s role in cocaine production, alleging that capital city Buenos Aires is home to numerous cocaine laboratories run by a Peruvian criminal network.
On March 19, the Argentinean NGO Fundacion La Alameda presented a report titled "The Narco Laboratories of the City," which states that there are at least 10 cocaine laboratories in the Bajo Flores neighborhood of Buenos Aires, reported La Nacion.
According to the report, over 300 heavily armed guards -- many of whom are former members of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla group and former Peruvian security forces -- protect these labs, which are capable of producing 10 kilos of cocaine per day and can be dismantled in around 30 minutes.
The criminal group that oversees the labs allegedly imports coca paste from Bolivia and Peru, and is run by a former Shining Path guerrilla named Marcos Antonio Estrada Gonzalez, alias "Marcos".
The criminal group is allegedly able to conduct some of its operations only a few kilometers from the President's Office, which the authors of the report argue is largely attributable to the breakdown of the Federal Police and the ineffectiveness (and sometimes complicity) of the Ministry of National Security.
Gustavo Vera, the head of La Alameda, said during a press conference that the NGO decided to publish the report due to the "complete inaction of the judiciary and Ministry of Security," reported La Nacion.
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The results of La Alameda's investigation -- which apparently prompted Pope Francis' comments about the "Mexicanization" of Argentina in February -- provide further indications that Argentina is becoming an increasingly important drug production center.
While coca base moving from Bolivia into Argentina to feed the domestic market for "basuco" -- a form of crack cocaine -- is nothing new, reports of large-scale cocaine laboratories in Buenos Aires appear to be a relatively recent phenomenon. Cocaine labs have previously been discovered in Argentina's Patagonia region and near the border with Bolivia as well as in a smaller city in Buenos Aires province.
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Furthermore, the fact that Peruvians are allegedly responsible for running the cocaine laboratories speaks to the level of infiltration transnational criminal elements -- lured by increased profits from the country's growing domestic demand for drugs and access to foreign markets -- have obtained in Argentina.
As stated in the report, critics argue that despite mounting public concerns Argentinean authorities have not adopted adequate measures to tackle the drug trade, and have consistently denied that Argentina is a drug producing nation.