Colombian drug smugglers have expanded their operations in Argentina, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The South American country has turned into a more profitable marketplace for Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers since the 1990s, according to the Times.
In the early 1990s Colombia’s narcotics exports where largely controlled by the Medellin and Cali Cartels. During this time Argentina was used primarily as a transit point to more lucrative foreign markets. Today, a growing body of evidence indicates increased activity from Colombian narco traffickers as well as heightened local demand for illegal drugs in Argentina.
In April, assassins tracked down and murdered Colombian drug runner Hector Jairo Saldarriaga, alias “The Dagger”. Saldarriaga gained notoriety first for being a member of the leftist guerrilla group FARC before specialising in the drug trade.
In May, Colombian authorities revealed that Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias “Mi Sangre”, a top leader of the “Urabeños,” a Colombian drug trafficking organization, was hiding in Argentina. There is currently an arrest warrant out for Mi Sangre on the charges of conspiracy, drug trafficking and weapons possession.
In the same month, Argentina’s security minister, Nilda Garre, confirmed Colombian drug traffickers operating in her country posed a growing threat. In addition to local demand, Garre said Argentina had become a pivotal staging route for Colombian drug shipments headed for Europe.
Compared to the U.S. and Europe, which have typically housed the most attractive markets for drug traffickers, fewer resources in Argentina have been allocated to drug interdiction. Mexican law professor, Edgardo Buscaglia, described Argentina as “… a place where the probability of indictment is extremely low, where the authorities in the provinces don’t have any capacity to investigate complex crimes, and which doesn’t cooperate much internationally.”