«South America SOUTH AMERICA 101 South America 102 South America Argentina I. Summary Argentina is a transshipment point for Andean-produced cocaine ...»
Argentina is a transshipment point for Andean-produced cocaine destined for Europe and for
Colombian heroin destined for the United States. It is also a source country for precursor
chemicals, owing to its advanced chemical production facilities. Seizures of cocaine in 2007 were
on par with levels in 2006, but authorities reported an increase in the number of small labs that convert cocaine base to cocaine hydrochloride (HCl). Argentina is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
II. Status of Country Argentina is a transit country for cocaine from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia destined for Europe and, to a lesser extent, for Colombian heroin en route to the United States. Marijuana is the most commonly smuggled and consumed drug in Argentina, followed by cocaine (HCl) and inhalants, respectively. U.S.-Argentine counternarcotics cooperation rests on robust law enforcement cooperation, which will be further enhanced when the judicial sector completes the transition from an inquisitorial legal system to an accusatory system. As one of South America’s largest producers of precursor chemicals it is vulnerable to diversion of these chemicals into the illicit drug production market. The Government of Argentina (GOA) has introduced modifications to its chemical control regime to address this vulnerability.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2007 Policy Initiatives. Argentina is in the process of transitioning from a written, inquisitorial judicial system to an oral, accusatory system. In 2007, confidence in the legal system remained low because of excessive delays between arrest and final judicial rulings and the lack of judicial transparency. The Justice Ministry prepared draft legislation to update the federal criminal code and the criminal procedure code to address shortcomings and inefficiencies in the investigation and prosecution of drug trafficking crimes. The legislation was not presented to Congress in 2007. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the Secretariat of Planning for the Prevention of Drug Addiction and Drug Trafficking (SEDRONAR) share the responsibility for directing Argentina’s counternarcotics efforts. The Ministry of Interior oversees federal law enforcement agencies (e.g.
operations) and SEDRONAR coordinates federal narcotics policy. The Minister of Interior instituted steps to improve inter-agency cooperation, including hosting coordination meetings, creating unified databases and standardizing protocols for conducting drug investigations. He also instructed the Directorate of Criminal Intelligence (DIC) to develop training and other tools to establish an undercover narcotics agent program. Two resolutions established an interagency training unit for the investigation of complex narcotrafficking and organized crimes and created an operational exchange program between federal and provincial law enforcement agencies. Argentina passed legislation in 1996 to control chemical substances, and the law was modified in 2005 to introduce additional controls on, inter alia, precursor chemicals. These modifications resulted in some improvements, but the law still lacks implementing legislation to impose penalties commensurate with violations.
Accomplishments. Complete federal statistics on seizures continue to be difficult to obtain because two agencies, UFIDRO (Prosecutorial Support Unit for the Investigation of Complex Offenses and Organized Crime) and SEDRONAR maintain different databases. UFIDRO nominally falls under the control of the Attorney General’s office (Procurador General), but its activities are financed by the MOI. UFIDRO began collecting seizure data from the federal law
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enforcement agencies and Customs in 2006 while SEDRONAR, which historically compiled seizure statistics, now only receives seizure data from the provincial police forces. Statistics through October 2007 show that federal and provincial law enforcement agencies seized nearly 8 metric tons (MT) of cocaine in 2007, 45.6 MT of coca leaf, 74.6 MT of marijuana and 5 kg of heroin. While these figures represent only ten months of the year, figures for all of 2006 were similar or higher – 8 MT of cocaine, 49.5 MT of coca leaf, 93.5 MT of marijuana and 50.8 kg of heroin.
Law Enforcement Efforts. The ongoing transition from the an inquisitorial legal system to an accusatorial system has caused excessive delays between arrest and final rulings and, as a result, eroded public confidence. However, important reforms are underway, and a principal one will place responsibility for investigations with the prosecutors. Under the current system, judges have the primary responsibility for conducting investigations. Other proposed reforms will allow prosecutors and judges more leeway in determining which cases to prosecute and will strengthen the oral trial system. One of the objectives of these reforms is to shorten the preliminary investigative period (etapa instructoria). A primary impetus in pushing these reforms is to give law enforcement agencies and the judiciary branch updated legal tools to go after organized trafficking networks. On several occasions during 2007, the Interior Minister noted publicly that too much effort and too many resources were used to go after small-scale dealers and users when the primary should be on the large-scale traffickers. Presidential decrees placed controls on precursor and essential chemicals, requiring that all manufacturers, importers or exporters, transporters, and distributors of these chemicals be registered with SEDRONAR. In the first seven months of 2007, the National Precursor Chemical Registry registered 1,019 new companies, reregistered 3,084 companies and issued 302 export authorizations and 1,349 import authorizations.
Corruption. The GOA is publicly committed to fighting corruption and prosecuting those implicated in corruption investigations. It is not government policy nor are any senior GOA officials known to engage in, encourage, or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.
Agreements and Treaties. Argentina is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three Protocols. and the UN Convention against Corruption. The United States and Argentina are parties to an extradition treaty that entered into force on June 15, 2000, and a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty that entered into force on December 13, 1990. Both of these agreements are actively used by the United States with the GOA. Argentina has bilateral narcotics cooperation agreements with many neighboring countries; Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, France, Italy and the Netherlands provide limited training and equipment. In 1990, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection signed a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement with the Government of Argentina. Argentina is also a party to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, Inter-American Convention of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, the InterAmerican Convention against Trafficking in Illegal Firearms, and the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism.
Cultivation/Production. Argentine press reporting indicates that there has been an increase in the number of small kitchen labs converting cocaine base to HCl or producing cocaine base. Six HC1 labs and two cocaine base labs were seized in the first half of 2007. Small amounts of marijuana are cultivated, mostly for domestic consumption.
Drug Flow/Transit. Historically, Colombian-produced heroin transiting Argentina is smuggled aboard commercial flights going directly to the U.S. or through Mexico and across the Southwest border. However, no seizures were recorded in the first six months of 2007. Colombian cocaine
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HCl entering Argentina is generally destined for international cocaine markets in Europe and the U.S. Cocaine HCl seizures have risen significantly over the past two years. There is an indigenous population along the northern border with Bolivia that traditionally consumes coca leaf, however no maceration pits were found in 2007, and only one was found in 2006. Proceeds from drug smuggling ventures organized in Argentina are often brought back to the country by couriers in bulk cash shipments and then wired to the United States for investments or smuggled directly into the United States. Almost all of the marijuana consumed in Argentina originates in Paraguay, and is smuggled across the border into the provinces of Misiones and Corrientes where it is then transported overland to urban centers.
Demand Reduction Programs. The GOA, in collaboration with some private sector entities, sponsors a variety of print and broadcast information campaigns which have a nationwide reach.
SEDRONAR coordinates the GOA’s demand reduction efforts. Argentina inaugurated its first National Drug Plan in 2005, and initiated a number of demand reduction programs in 2006 that continued in 2007. They include a school-based program targeting 10-14 year-olds, a sports-based prevention program, a community prevention program and one focused on vulnerable populations.
The latter has a specific focus on the use of a cheap cocaine-based drug, “paco,” which is increasingly prevalent among poorer populations in the northeastern provinces and has caused devastating health effects on these marginalized sectors and caused an increase in criminal activity.
IV. U.S. Initiatives and Programs Policy Initiatives. U.S. efforts in Argentina center on four core areas: reducing Argentina’s role as a transit point for drug trafficking by disrupting and dismantling the major drug trafficking organizations in the region; promoting regional counternarcotics cooperation with Andean and Southern Cone nations; maximizing host nation drug enforcement capabilities; and fortifying bilateral cooperation with host nation law enforcement agencies.
Bilateral Cooperation. The cornerstone of the USG’s law enforcement support, with INL funding and DEA expertise is the Northern Border Task Force (NBTF), a joint law enforcement group comprising federal and provincial elements operating in Argentina’s northwestern provinces of Jujuy and Salta to interdict the drug flow from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. In 2007, DEA and GOA law enforcement agencies created the Eastern Border Task Force (EBTF), modeled after the NBTF and focused on the illicit drug smuggling activities in the tri-border area with Paraguay and Brazil.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) works closely with Argentine federal and provincial law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and judges, and SEDRONAR and UFIDRO to improve coordination, cooperation, training and exchanges. DEA and the Legal Attache’s office (LEGATT) are particularly focused on working with prosecutors and judges on improving and updating investigation and prosecution techniques vis-a-vis narcotics trafficking and other complex crimes.
Argentine law enforcement agencies, with DEA support, continued to participate in Gran Chaco and Operation Seis Fronteras (Six Frontiers) with counterparts in Bolivia. Mission’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement office (ICE) participated in “Operation Andes III,” a joint program sponsored by INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO) to coordinate the interdiction of precursor chemicals in South America. Participants included national police and customs agencies from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provided advisory support for precursor shipment identification and investigative response.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) provided a number of training opportunities to the Argentina Prefectura. Mobile training teams conducted two maritime law enforcement courses and one port physical security course in Argentina during 2007. The Prefectura also sent officers to the USCG’s
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crisis command and control, leadership and international maritime officer courses. Argentina also stationed an LNO (liaison officer) at JIATF-S to facilitate cooperation.
The Road Ahead. The GOA is seeking congressional approval of reforms to the criminal procedure code that would streamline and shorten the cases and caseload, greatly enhancing the government’s ability to prosecute narcotics-related crimes, among others. The GOA is also seeking to tighten control of precursor chemicals, improve coordination among law enforcement agencies, integrate databases to enable more thorough investigations, and pursue greater transparency in the judicial system. The U.S. Mission will continue to make bilateral law enforcement cooperation the foundation of its efforts, using the Northern Border Task Force (NBTF and the newly established Eastern Border Task Force (EBTF) as the centerpieces to augment GOA interdiction and enforcement capabilities. Mission elements will also work to establish and support a new working group involving the GOA’s Customs and Coast Guard agencies to facilitate greater investigative cooperation on maritime security. The USG will lend support to ongoing operations at border areas, including Gran Chaco and Operation Six Frontiers. The Mission is supporting the U.S.
Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance in developing for 2008 a technical support and training program for the Argentine Central Bank and government regulatory agencies (including the FIU), to strengthen Argentina’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance efforts. U.S.
technical support will also continue to foster stronger precursor chemical control and compliance measures.
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