The leader of the Alvarado Clan, one of Argentina's top drug trafficking organizations, is back behind bars. But in the country's criminal hotspot of Rosario, there is little chance this will truly harm Alvarado operations or their rivalry with the Monos.
On June 9, Esteban Alvarado received a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. The conviction tacks on to a life sentence he received earlier in June for leading an illicit organization responsible for violent homicides and money laundering.
The architect of the Alvarado Clan's drug trafficking in Santa Fe province's port city, news outlet Clarín detailed how he was finally brought down on drug charges after being linked to a 2017 seizure of nearly half a ton of marijuana.
Alvarado has reportedly dabbled in multiple criminal economies since his youth. According to Clarín, drug trafficking has been his principal business since the early 2010s, and he has enjoyed protection from the highest levels of police authority in Rosario.
He previously served a sentence of six years and six months for car theft during which investigators linked him to several assassinations.
The Alvarado group has frequently clashed with the Monos, by far and away Argentina's principal criminal threat, in Rosario.
InSight Crime Analysis
While the Monos are the biggest traffickers in Rosario, they are not the only game in town.
Employing similar tactics of corrupting the police and meting out brutal violence, the Alvarado Clan presents a strong rival to the Monos for control of drug sales inside Rosario and drug trafficking routes reaching Argentina from Paraguay and Bolivia.
Headed by the Cantero family, the Monos has been the premier drug trafficking organization in Rosario for decades. Though the gang's roots are strongest in the city's southern zone, its influence stretches throughout Rosario and it maintains contacts along the borders with Paraguay and Bolivia, from where it receives drug shipments.
Nevertheless, Alvarado himself has managed to be a major contender for Rosario's underworld, for years running operations from the same prison as the Cantero leadership.
Corruption has been at the heart of the success of both organizations, as evidenced by the fact that both the Alvarado Clan and Los Monos manage to continue drug trafficking operations and targeted killings despite their respective leaders being behind bars.
Alvarado's own trial revealed years of police protection for his organization that allegedly began with former Rosario police Chief Néstor Arismendi. According to a report by local media, Aire de Santa Fe, he and Alvarado allegedly set up a system in which the criminal group could run drug trafficking in the western and northwestern parts of the city, while enjoying a hands-off approach from the police.
In exchange, Esteban Alvarado and his former partner, Luis Medina, would reportedly minimize violence and car theft in their zones of control.
One witness at the trial recounted how Alvarado bribe police officials for tip-offs about impending police operations and to cover up assassinations he'd ordered. According to the witness "the police charged him more money depending on the brutality with which the murder was committed," wrote Clarín.
The pact between Alvarado, Medina and Arismendi was frayed by an investigation against the latter for illicit enrichment and a falling out between Medina and Alvarado in 2013.
The pact ruptured completely when Medina and his partner were murdered in 2013. The crime was originally thought to have been carried out by the Monos but, during the trial, prosecutors alleged Esteban Alvarado himself ordered the killing, fearing a betrayal by Medina.