HomeNewsUruguay's Microtrafficking Approach Under Question as Homicides Jump
NEWS

Uruguay's Microtrafficking Approach Under Question as Homicides Jump

DRUG POLICY / 20 MAY 2022 BY ALESSANDRO FORD EN

A spate of gang-related killings in Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo, alongside violence throughout the country, is raising debate about the alleged success of the government's uncompromising security strategies in confronting microtrafficking.

On May 14, a new report indicated that Uruguay had witnessed 147 murders between January and mid-May. In the first quarter, this marked a worrying increase of 35 percent year-on-year and threatened to lead Uruguay to a record year in terms of homicides.

The report came days after six people were killed in the Peñarol neighborhood of the capital Montevideo in just 72 hours, several of whom were dismembered or set on fire, while one was shot by police in a firefight. Authorities believe several of the attacks were connected and were the result of clashes between street-level drug dealers.

Uruguay’s Interior Minister, Luis Alberto Heber, responded by arguing the conflicts paradoxically showed that the Lacalle Pou administration’s policy of targeting microtraffickers to reduce the drug trade was working.

SEE ALSO: Chile’s Microtrafficking Zero Program: Success or Failure?

“As there has been success in [closing microtrafficking spots in] other areas, the remaining spots are much more violently disputed,” he told a May 10 press conference.

Despite this alleged success, the following day the Minister vowed to “redouble” efforts to combat gang violence and met with Uruguay’s President to request additional funding to increase the number of drug prosecutors, police stations and police vehicles in Montevideo.

Not counting the police shooting, the latest killing marks the tenth homicide in Peñarol in 2022. This is compared to the record 15 people murdered there in 2019.

InSight Crime Analysis

Uruguay has long been one of Latin America’s safest countries with one of its most advanced drug policies. However, while that is unlikely to change much anytime soon, the country has witnessed some backsliding in both areas.

The country’s importance as a transit point for Europe-bound cocaine has steadily increased in recent years, providing the context for hardline politicians to propose more kinetic, security-driven policies to address an entirely different issue: the sporadic microtrafficking clashes taking place in marginalized neighborhoods.

The Lacalle Pou administration appears to be moving in this direction. In its 2021 annual memorandum, the Interior Ministry presented various hard tactics aimed at reducing microtrafficking as its spearhead in the fight against drug trafficking more generally.

SEE ALSO: Uruguay Faces Rising Public Pressure to Militarize Fight Against Crime

In 2021, authorities dismantled over 1,150 microtrafficking spots, seized 2.1 tons of marijuana and 1.1 tons of cocaine base paste respectively and convicted 1,465 people for drug-related offenses, according to the memorandum. It also expanded its fleet of patrol vehicles, created a new registry for collecting information to combat microtrafficking and created mandatory sentencing minimums for microtraffickers that critics say disproportionately affect poor women.

The latest case has been met by the same alleged solutions. Authorities announced an increase in patrols, checkpoints and intelligence gathering to cut off the drug supply to microtraffickers, and the creation of a fourth anti-drug prosecutor’s office in Montevideo to speed up the approval of raids on microtrafficking spots.

More integrated responses are outlined in Uruguay’s National Drug Strategy 2021-2025, which states that “the fragility of the communities affected by illicit drug trafficking, particularly microtrafficking, requires the implementation of social and economic promotion and development programs.”

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.

DONATE

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.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 7 APR 2016

Colombia's military has outlined areas of focus for its future functions should peace agreements be signed with the FARC and…

COLOMBIA / 2 JUN 2020

The decision to send US troops into Colombia to help against drug trafficking is a troubling one, whether as part…

LA UNIÓN TEPITO / 31 OCT 2019

A recent raid against the La Unión Tepito gang in Mexico City may not have a lasting impact on the group's…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…