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Cablegate: Argentina: Justice Minister Commits to Enhanced

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1054/01 2131409
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 311409Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1658
INFO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001054

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KJUS SNAR DCRM AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: JUSTICE MINISTER COMMITS TO ENHANCED
MONITORING OF PRECURSOR CHEMICALS

1. (SBU) Summary: Ambassador Wayne met with GOA Minister of
Justice and Security Anibal Fernandez at the latter's request
July 30 to discuss the monitoring and control of
methamphetamine and heroin precursor drugs produced and
imported to Argentina. With leaders of the key police
agencies present, Minister Fernandez expressed his desire to
move new legislation controlling chemical precursors rapidly
and outlined three key aspects of the monitoring plan: 1) a
beginning-to-end system that includes control of the
chemicals from production (or import) to final distribution;
2) a dual perspective on execution of the new law with both
Federal Police and technical industrial oversight by INTI;
and 3) a computer-based on-line system to provide constant
monitoring and complete compliance with the new regulations.
Ambassador also raised the issue of an outstanding payment
dispute between the Ministry and Unisys. The Minister
indicated a desire to resolve the problem. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Just following the discovery of a ephedrine drug
lab run by Mexicans in a Buenos Aires suburb, Minister
Fernandez called the Ambassador to arrange a meeting to talk
about better control of precursor chemicals. The Ambassador
agreed heartily, noting that the DEA had detected substantial
growth in precursor chemical discoveries in Argentina and we
had helped to work with the GoA to improve its system for
controlling the key substances. A July 30 meeting was set.
Clearly, the Minister intended this meeting to launch with
public knowledge a substantial effort against precursor
chemicals. Fernandez, who typically meets solo with the
Ambassador, was accompanied this time by Federal Police Chief
Nestor Valleca, Gendarmeria Commandante General Hector
Scherone, Prefectura Chief of Narcotics Marcelo Valentini,
Federal Police Sub-Commissioner Cesar Eymuller, National
Prefecture Enrique Julio, and Gendarmeria Commandante Mayor
Sergio Segato. He also had substantial media coverage at the
start of the meeting. Mission DEA Chief and notetaker
accompanied the Ambassador.

A ) Z Monitoring System
-----------------------

3. (SBU) The Minister started by discussing the need for
substantial improvements to upcoming drug legislation. The
Ambassador noted that Mexican drug cartels are actively
seeking alternative ephedrine production locations as a
result of the stronger anti-precursor drug laws in Mexico.
Minister Fernandez agreed and stressed the importance of
monitoring the production of the precursor chemicals from
beginning to end. Under the new system of oversight, all
precursor chemical producers or importers would be required
to provide up-to-date information on all stages of
production. In order to create an effective system of
control, the Minister indicated that every stage from initial
production, importation, distribution, and final delivery
needed to be monitored. This would include a registration
system required by any producer or importer of ephedrine and
other chemicals as well as punishing any violators of the new
regulations with a loss of their business license. He also
implied that his preferred version of the law would include
hard penalties and even jail time. He added that without
complete control of the entire supply chain, the new law
would not produce the desired results. He noted that a bad
version of a new precursor law had been voted out of the
Senate, but this must be replaced soonest by a better
GoA-drafted bill.

Police and Industrial Oversight
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Minister indicated that the control and
execution of the new drug law with regards to precursor
chemicals would not be limited to law enforcement. He stated
that due to the technical nature of production of these
chemicals, law enforcement needed to work hand in hand with
the GOA's National Institute of Industrial Technology, the
agency that monitors and oversees quality control within
Argentine businesses. According to the Minister, this dual
point of view would enable the law to be an effective tool in
combating illicit production of ephedrine.

On-line Monitoring System
-------------------------

5. (SBU) The Minister also stressed the need for an on-line
monitoring system to effectively oversee production. A


National Police official stated that currently there were
over 2,000 chemical distributors in Argentina. According to
the Minister, such a number of companies could not be
monitored without a robust computer-based monitoring system
that provides up-to-date details about each company and each
aspect of production and distribution. Previous efforts to
monitor precursor chemicals through administrative measures
fell far short of the intended goal of stopping discoveries
for illicit uses. Police officials indicated that in the
past, physical inspections of chemical production facilities
revealed discrepancies between reported amounts of chemical
inventory and the actual amounts on site.

6. (SBU) Minister Fernandez ordered the top security
officials present to begin acting to put a better system in
place right away and with similar speed to prepare for
submission to Congress appropriate legislation. He said the
government should enact by decree whatever it can to improve
the system while legislation is pending.

7. (SBU) DEA Chief stated that there were some concerns
regarding the status of marijuana in the upcoming drug law,
and asked specifically what amounts of marijuana would be
considered illegal. The impression was that marijuana was
effectively decriminalized under the proposed bill. The
Minister responded that there would be no legal amount of
marijuana and that possession of the drug is and will remain
illegal. However, the judges in each case are the ones that
will determine the sentencing.

Other items: Unisys, Air Marshals
---------------------------------
8. (SBU) After the other officials left, Ambassador raised
the outstanding payment dispute between Unisys and Argentine
Judiciary. (Secretary of Justice Marcela Losardo, who reports
directly to Minister Fernandez, is the MOJ representative to
the Magistrates' council that is considering Unisys' claim.)
The Minister responded that he would look into the situation
right away and indicated that he wished to resolve the issue.
Ambassador also conveyed requests to the Minister for an
improved approval system from the Minister regarding U.S.
Federal Air Marshal visits to Ezeiza International Airport
outside Buenos Aires. The Minister responded that he was
unaware of the most recent request and gave immediate
approval to the Air Marshal team that was awaiting approval.
Finally, the Ambassador mentioned the Embassy's recent
support of the local NGO "Mothers Against Paco," which is
dedicated to assisting youth addicted to "paco," a local
cocaine by-product akin to crack. Ambassador also offered
congratulations for the Ministry's recent work on combatting
trafficking in persons, which was met with appreciation.

Comment
-------

9. (SBU) The Minister's focus on improving the monitoring of
production of precursor chemicals is a positive indicator
that the new drug legislation will be a better tool in
combating precursor chemical production. It's also
encouraging that he (uncharacteristically) brought along
Argentina's law enforcement leadership to the meeting, both
as a way to demonstrate the GOA's seriousness and to remind
his own team of the importance he places on the precursor
issue. The Embassy had made improved contracts of precursor
chemicals one of our Mission priorities for this year and had
raised the issue on a number of occasions previously with the
Minister and others. We will continue to push for more
stringent punishments as part of the new law.
WAYNE

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