HomeNewsChile Receiving Synthetic Drugs Galore From Netherlands, Belgium

Chile Receiving Synthetic Drugs Galore From Netherlands, Belgium


Record-breaking MDMA seizures in Chilean ports have linked yet another Latin American country to synthetic drugs from the Netherlands and Belgium, some of the world’s largest ecstasy producers.

Authorities in Iquique and San Antonio, port cities in northern Chile, discovered nearly 475,000 MDMA tablets on various ships departing from the Netherlands and Belgium in the past two months. The shipments, valued at $17 million, came from the ports of Rotterdam, Zeebrugge and Antwerp.

According to Chilean newspaper BioBio, the operation led to the arrest of seven Dominican nationals, hinting that the Dominican Republic may have been a transit point for these drugs.

SEE ALSO: Chile Struggles to Deal With Colossal Influx of Synthetic Drugs

The smugglers hid pills in a motor home, three cars and a mechanical compressor. Due to the route and modus operandi of the various shipments, authorities established that the drugs belonged to the same organization.

The discoveries in northern Chile are not the first hauls of Dutch ecstasy in Chile, but recent seizures have entered the country by plane, not ship. In April 2022, authorities at the Santiago airport found over 6,000 ecstasy tablets in luggage originating in the Netherlands, while in 2019, ecstasy was found in a table shipped from the Netherlands by plane.

InSight Crime Analysis

The steady flow of synthetic drugs from Belgium and the Netherlands to Latin America seems to have found a new market in Chile.

Chile is one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America per capita, with a growing middle class, leading to demand for synthetic drugs. The country's long coastline and developed ports make sending drugs there more straightforward than in other countries. MDMA production in Europe has led to more supply for countries like Chile with rising demand.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s World Drug Report 2022, the Netherlands was the top origin and departure point of ecstasy from 2016–2020, with Belgium following in second place. Drug traffickers have often smuggled pills from Belgium and Germany to Latin America, particularly Argentina. After arrival, smugglers move the drugs to neighboring countries with substantial synthetic drug markets, such as Chile and Brazil.

SEE ALSO: Chile: One More Departure Point for Europe-Bound Cocaine

Despite the established routes between Europe and Argentina, Chile's ports have had few ecstasy seizures. The recent stings demonstrate the link between the Netherlands, Belgium and Chile. A direct shipping route to Chile would cut out middlemen, eliminate risk, and allow more MDMA to flow into Chile compared to the more common parcel shipments or smuggling of drugs on airplanes.

Drug trafficking between Chile and Europe has previously been seen as a one-way street, as several Chilean ports have emerged as transit hubs for Bolivian and Colombian cocaine headed to European. But the most recent seizure shows that the dynamic is changing; cocaine headed to Europe from Chile, and synthetics moving reversely.

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

BRAZIL / 4 JAN 2023

East and Southern Africa are receiving much larger cocaine shipments from South America than previously imagined.

BRAZIL / 28 OCT 2021

A Nigerian trafficking network is now using "mules" to move drugs from South America to Europe, exemplifying how this growing…

COCAINE / 26 MAY 2021

A Turkish mafia boss has claimed cocaine is being trafficked directly from Venezuela to Turkey in a viral video, pointing…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Coverage Continues to be Highlighted

3 MAR 2023

This week, InSight Crime co-director Jeremy McDermott was the featured guest on the Americas Quarterly podcast, where he provided an expert overview of the changing dynamics…


Venezuela's Organized Crime Top 10 Attracts Attention

24 FEB 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published its ranking of Venezuela’s ten organized crime groups to accompany the launch of the Venezuela Organized Crime Observatory. Read…


InSight Crime on El País Podcast

10 FEB 2023

This week, InSight Crime co-founder, Jeremy McDermott, was among experts featured in an El País podcast on the progress of Colombia’s nascent peace process.


InSight Crime Interviewed by Associated Press

3 FEB 2023

This week, InSight Crime’s Co-director Jeremy McDermott was interviewed by the Associated Press on developments in Haiti as the country continues its prolonged collapse. McDermott’s words were republished around the world,…


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…