Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chapo in Argentina

Proceso has a good story this week about Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel's empire establishing itself in Argentina. One of the notable parts is expert Edgardo Buscaglia talking about why the Sinaloa cartel would set up production and distribution networks in the southern cone. The reason, Buscaglia tells Proceso, is to "diversify" and "minimize risk."

Indeed, this is what the Mexican cartels, not just Chapo and Sinaloa, have been doing in recent years. As early as 2006, they were getting meth precursors like ephedrine (by then, illegal in Mexico) shipped to Argentina and then brought all the way up north to make meth. Ephedrine imports to Argentina rose from 5.5 tons in 2006 to 28.5 tons in 2007, according to the DEA.

In addition, there were some major arrests on Argentine shores. On one occasion, two Mexican men who had recently entered the country were arrested with 750 kilos of cocaine. A judge investigating their case believed they were working for the Sinaloa cartel. They were allegedly planning to smuggle the cocaine to Spain, where it would have a street value of $27 million.

Another raid outside Buenos Aires had netted twenty-three Sinaloa-linked Mexicans and a meth lab in 2008: already then, the cartels were thinking of producing in Argentina rather than just using it as a transshipment point.

Violence has also accompanied the arrival of the Mexican cartels in Argentina. In 2009, three Argentines were found in a ditch outside Buenos Aires, their corpses riddled with bullets, their hands bound. The killing had all the hallmarks of a Mexican cartel-related execution. According to a retired DEA agent working in Argentina, the young men had tried to rip off their Mexican counterparts.

We'll see if violence increases in Argentina with these new reports of Chapo's people working there. Meanwhile, an Argentine press report that cites an anonymous official talking about Chapo having lived in Argentina in 2010, before heading to Paraguay, Colombia and then Europe, is likely BS. Patrick Corcoran has a nice piece on it at, but I am not quite sure this story warrants any attention whatsoever. While it is possible Chapo has traveled in recent years, I'm not convinced it would be that easy for him to just jet around as the article implies. And from conversations with people who know way more about this than an anonymous Argentine official, I'm pretty convinced he's still holed up in Durango and Sinaloa, where he's safe and powerful. He can send envoys to Argentina and the like, rather than risk a visit himself.

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