HomeNewsBriefUruguay Police Fear Rise of Local Cocaine Processing

Uruguay Police Fear Rise of Local Cocaine Processing


Police in Uruguay are investigating the possibility that drug trafficking organizations are increasingly using the country to set up cocaine processing laboratories in the country.

According to a report by Uruguay’s El Pais, police have reason to suspect that cocaine traffickers, seeking easier access to precursor chemicals, are looking to Uruguay, where the chemicals used to process the drug are not restricted as in other countries in the region. A police intelligence source consulted by the paper claimed that these labs are frequently operated by at least one foreigner, presumably from a coca-producing country like Colombia, who has experience in making the drug.

Police say that they have detected and raided at least four cocaine labs in recent years. The first discovery occurred in April 2008, when police arrested 11 suspects accused of using a Montevideo residence to convert large quantities of unrefined cocaine paste into cocaine.

InSight Crime Analysis

Of course, four incidents in as many years do not necessarily indicate a trend. Additionally, it is not clear whether all of these “laboratories” actually carried out chemical processing of cocaine, or whether some were used simply as staging points to divvy up and repackage the drug into smaller quantities to be sold on the street.

Still, the report comes at a time when officials in Uruguay are highly concerned about a rise in drug trafficking and violence linked to organized crime in the country. While Uruguay still has the lowest homicide rate in Latin America (6.1 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants), it has risen significantly. The country saw 133 homicides in the first half of 2012, up 75 percent from the previous year.

A recent government proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana sales via official government dispensaries was cast as a solution to the illicit drug trade in the country. Uruguayan President Jose Mujica endorsed the plan as a way to force marijuana dealers out of business and free up more resources in order to pursue cocaine traffic.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.


Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

COCAINE / 15 SEP 2022

Uruguay is becoming an increasingly popular stop along the cocaine pipeline to Europe. But authorities are struggling to respond.


Latin American countries scored poorly on Transparency International’s latest corruption index, with the worst joining the ranks of war-torn nations…


Uruguay has made the rare move of capturing a Chinese fishing vessel, suspected of illegally fishing tons of squid…

About InSight Crime


Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.


InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.


Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …


InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…


Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…