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Chile: One More Departure Point for Europe-Bound Cocaine

BOLIVIA / 29 APR 2022 BY HENRY SHULDINER EN

A recent string of drug seizures in Chile, coupled with cocaine discovered on ships originating there, points to the country emerging as another key departure point in the European cocaine pipeline.

The latest haul came during the week of April 18, when Chilean police carried out two operations that intercepted more than 800 kilograms of drugs, BioBioChile reported. According to authorities, the drugs, which included cocaine bricks impressed with the image of a dolphin, were smuggled from Bolivia into the Tarapacá Region of northern Chile. Portions of the drugs were then stashed in the Santiago area and moved to port cities such as Arica and Iquique.

Drugs smuggled from Bolivia have been turning up regularly in Chile. In February, about a ton of drugs – including cocaine, coca paste and 2-CB, a synthetic hallucinogen similar to MDMA, also known as ecstasy – were seized from a gang who trafficked them from Bolivia to the northern port city of Arica, just across the border with Bolivia.

SEE ALSO: In Chile, Drug Trafficking Becoming More Prominent and Violent

In December of last year, Chilean customs agents intercepted a Bolivian truck carrying over 300 kilograms of cocaine paste into Chile. The seizure was one of the largest in 2021, when customs officers seized 2.6 tons of drugs, mostly cocaine and ketamine.

Chile saw an uptick in drugs entering the country by sea amid pandemic border closures. With land borders open, Bolivian criminal groups have also returned to established routes.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Bolivian cocaine has long been smuggled into neighboring Chile for the domestic market, traffickers now appear to be targeting the country's ports in their search for new maritime shipping points to Europe.

Seizures of cocaine on ships originating in Chile this year have included French authorities discovering some 500 kilograms at the port of Marseille in January and Dominican authorities uncovering 140 bricks of cocaine on a ship bound for Belgium.

In October 2021, Panamanian authorities discovered 3.5 tons of drugs on a Chilean container ship headed to the Netherlands, a major gateway for South American cocaine aimed at Europe.

SEE ALSO: The Cocaine Pipeline to Europe

In recent years, traffickers looking to reach Europe have flooded Ecuador’s main port of Guayaquil. With European port customs agents increasingly inspecting maritime cargo from Ecuador, traffickers have begun to look to other ports. Chile is an attractive departure point, as it neighbors the cocaine-producing country of Bolivia and is home to several Pacific ports.

Indeed, Chilean traffickers emerged in the 1960s and 70s as early players in the international cocaine trade, but they were soon eclipsed by groups in Colombia and other Andean countries. InSight Crime’s “The Cocaine Pipeline to Europe” report found that South American nations with little recent connection to or history in the drug trade, including Chile, are increasingly being tested by traffickers who conceal drugs in maritime cargo.

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