US authorities have expressed concern over rising drug consumption in Argentina and the growth of local organized crime, drawing attention to a problem that is now seeing increasingly sophisticated criminal structures begin to migrate.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson said in a press conference that domestic drug use in Argentina had "increased very dramatically," reported La Nacion.
Her comments came shortly after the US State Department published its "Country Reports on Terrorism 2013" (pdf). The document cited both northern regions and the Triple Frontier between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay as hubs for drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime, a phenomenon facilitated by inadequate police monitoring.
In light of these comments, Argentine Security Minister Sergio Berni said the government would increase cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to "share information and organize training courses," reported Infobae.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although some Argentine authorities -- including Berni -- continue to downplay the importance of drug trafficking in the country, the State Department report adds to a growing wave of concern among domestic officials. The defense minister stated earlier this year that both consumption and production were increasingly important issues, while the governor of Buenos Aires province recently called drug trafficking the country's most serious problem.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina
There are statistics to support these claims -- consumption of marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy by high school students across the country rose 200, 170 and 1,000 percent respectively between 2001 and 2011, reported Clarin. In Buenos Aires, cases of drug sale and possession with intent to supply more than doubled between 2006 and 2013.
Argentina is a significant transit point for cocaine trafficked by Colombian and Mexican criminal groups, and is South America's second-biggest cocaine consumer after Brazil. Foreign cartels have now established a permanent presence there, and domestic organized crime has grown as micro-trafficking has intensified. The effects of this have been particularly apparent in the northeastern city of Rosario, which saw record homicidess last year as drug gangs fought for power over the local market. The violent trade prompted a massive security force intervention last month.
Rosario gang "Los Monos" has shown signs of significant sophistication and, despite recent hits against it, appears to have migrated north to the city of Santa Fe. While such gangs appear to remain independent, it is likely some form of relationship with the overseas cartels present in the country will emerge in the future.