Cablegate: Argentine Chapter of 2004-2005 Incsr Part I

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 248987

I. Summary

1. Argentina is not a major drug producing country, but it
is a transit country for cocaine flowing from neighboring
Bolivia, Peru and Colombia primarily destined for Europe.
Argentina is also a transit route for Colombian heroin en
route to the U.S East Coast (primarily New York). Due to its
advanced chemical production facilities, Argentina continues
to be a source for precursor chemicals. According to
Argentine Government (GOA) statistics, there was more cocaine
seized in the first three quarters of 2004 than in the entire
2003 calendar year. In addition to Argentine traffickers,
there is evidence that Colombian drug traffickers have
greatly increased their presence in all aspects of the
Argentine drug trade. In 2004 there was an increase in
domestic cocaine production using coca base imported from
Bolivia. In late 2004, the GOA seized a Colombian-run
cocaine laboratory located in the Buenos Aires area
reportedly capable of producing up to 300 kilos of cocaine.
This may signal a new chapter in the global war on drugs, as
Colombian narcotics traffickers search out alternative bases
of operations and transit routes in response to the increased
pressure of Plan Colombia. Also of concern is that according
to GOA statistics, domestic drug use continues on the
upswing. The dangerous trends of increased domestic drug
consumption and production coupled with the increased
activity of Colombian drug traffickers are indications that
the situation in Argentina is at a crucial point.

2. The GOA recognizes the increase in narcotics trafficking
and consumption, and during 2004 has taken concrete steps
toward combating these growing problems. In September,
following ten years of negotiations, the GOA signed an INL
Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the U.S., both demonstrating
its increased willingness to work with the U.S. on narcotics
related issues, and enabling the U.S. to begin providing
assistance to the GOA. In December, the Ministry of the
Interior started developing a National Security Plan
targeting specifically the area of drug trafficking along its
border area with Bolivia and Paraguay, and has requested DEA
assistance in both the planning and execution phases of this
vital process. Also in December, the GOA cabinet office in
charge of prevention issues (SEDRONAR) announced plans to
create the first ever national drug prevention plan
emphasizing youth education and public awareness. SEDRONAR
has asked Post,s INL representative to be involved in the
project and to assist in obtaining regional expertise from
neighboring countries. Narcotics use and trafficking are
important issues in Argentina, and the GOA,s relationship
with the USG in narcotics-related issues is extremely close
and positive. Argentina is a party to the 1988 UN Drug

II. Status of Country

3. While cocaine production is increasing, Argentina is not
a major drug producing country. Because of its advanced
chemical production facilities, it is one of South America's
largest producers of chemicals used to manufacture almost all
the precursors necessary to process cocaine and heroin.
Marijuana remains the most commonly smuggled and consumed
drug, with cocaine HC1 and inhalants ranked second and third.
Recently the use of Paco, coca base mixed with toxic
chemicals, has increased in Argentina. Paco is a relatively
inexpensive and addictive drug similar to crack, and is
popular among low-income youth. Bolivia is the primary
source of narcotics entering Argentina, but narcotics also
enter via Paraguay and Brazil. The trafficking of Colombian
heroin through Argentina to the U.S. East Coast has decreased
in 2004 due to the capture of a well-organized heroin
trafficking ring in December 2003, but heroin trafficking via
commercial air carriers remains a concern. Seizures of
amphetamines and ecstasy (MDMA), a synthetic stimulant with
hallucinogenic properties, are increasing.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2004

4. Policy Initiatives. The government actively targets the
trafficking, sale, and use of illegal narcotics. Internal
Security is one of the highest profile issues in Argentina
today, and the fight against crime in Argentina is synonymous
with the fight against drug traffickers and drug use. In
September 2004, President Nestor Kirchner moved the Security
Secretariat from the Justice Ministry back to the Ministry of

the Interior, a move that is widely seen as significantly
raising the profile of security related issues. In December
2004, the Interior Minister announced plans to develop a
national security plan to deal with the drug trafficking
problem. The Interior Ministry is working with SEDRONAR, the
Gendarmeria National (border guards), Aduanas (Customs), the
Federal Police and Provincial leadership and law enforcement
on this issue.

5. Accomplishments. From November 2003 to October 2004, the
DEA-funded Northern Border Task Force (NBTF) seized in excess
of 54,910 kilograms of illicit chemicals, down significantly
from 153,569.50 kilograms during the same period in 2003.
While the amount of illicit chemicals seized was down in
2004, the amounts seized indicates that chemical diversion
remains a serious problem. The NBTF and Group Condor seized
691 Kilograms of cocaine, including base, and arrested 139
traffickers in FY2004 as compared with 507.88 kilograms of
cocaine and 207 traffickers in 2003. A major benefit derived
from these operations has been the enhanced cooperation
between the agencies in the conduct of joint investigations.

6. According to statistics provided by SEDRONAR, in the
first nine months of 2004, GOA law enforcement seized 12
clandestine cocaine laboratories capable of processing an
estimated 565 kilograms of cocaine. Not included in
SEDRONAR's statistics is the November 2004 GOA seizure of the
largest cocaine lab ever discovered in Argentina, reportedly
capable of producing more than half as much cocaine as all
the other labs seized in 2004 combined. In comparison, eight
labs were seized in 2003, and only 15 small labs were seized
between 1999 and 2002.

7. According to SEDRONAR, 2,155 kilograms of cocaine were
seized in the first three quarters of 2004, compared to 1,918
kilograms of cocaine for all of 2003. Also according to
SEDRONAR, 43,920 kilograms of marijuana were seized in the
first three quarters of 2004, compared to 45,553 kilograms
during the same period in 2003. SEDRONAR also reports that
29.8 metric tons of coca leaf were seized during the first
three quarters of 2004, down sharply from the 39.5 metric
tons seized during the same period in 2003. Seizure totals
for the last three years are considerably lower then the 91.3
metric tons seized in 2001.

8. Law Enforcement Efforts. The Ministry of the Interior,
in coordination with SEDRONAR, directs federal
counternarcotics policy. The primary federal forces involved
are the Federal Police, the Gendarmeria, Aduanas, National
Air Police (PAN), and the Prefectura Naval (Coast Guard).
Provincial police forces also play an integral part in
counternarcotics operations. The GOA has recently signaled
an increased dedication to combating both narcotics
trafficking and consumption and are actively taking measures
to increase coordination between the various law enforcement

9. All of Argentina's security forces face continuing severe
counternarcotics budget limitations which have hampered
investment in training and equipment. Also, weak
coordination between law enforcement agencies continues to
lessen GOA effectiveness. The GOA recognizes these problems
and has taken steps to alleviate them. The Gendarmeria, for
example, has been authorized to recruit an additional 2,000
members in 2004 and one of the primary goals of the proposed
National Security Plan is to seek methods to greatly increase
interagency cooperation.

10. Corruption. Corruption remains a high profile issue in
Argentina and the GOA continues to make efforts to eliminate
corruption and prosecute those implicated in corruption
investigations. The GOA has created the Anti-Corruption
Office within the Executive Branch that is responsible for
investigating suspected instances of corruption. Since its
inception, the office has initiated more than 1,000
investigations, some of which in recent months have either
gone or are heading to trial. In 2004, the former
Environment Secretary Maria Julia Alsogaray was convicted on
corruption charges and is currently incarcerated. The GOA
does not facilitate illicit production or distribution of
narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances
or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.

11. Agreements and Treaties. Argentina remains very active
in multilateral counternaroctics organizations such as the
Inter American Drug Abuse Commission, the International Drug
Enforcement Conference (IDEC), and the United Nations Drug
Control Program. The GOA hosted the IDEC in 2000 and played
an active role in IDEC 2001-4. In 2004, Argentina continued
to urge MERCOSUR (Common Market of South American Nations) to
play a larger role in money laundering and chemical precursor
diversion investigations.

12. Argentina is a party to the UN convention Against
Transitional Organized Crime and two of its protocols
(trafficking in persons and alien smuggling), and has signed
but not yet ratified the third protocol (firearms). The GOA
has bilateral narcotics cooperation agreements with many
neighboring countries. The United Kingdom, Germany,
Australia, France and Italy provide limited training and
equipment support. In 1998, a witness protection program for
key witnesses in drug-related prosecutions was created. In
1997, the U.S. and Argentina signed a new extradition treaty,
which entered into force on June 15, 2000. A Memorandum of
Understanding between the U.S. Department of the Treasury and
SEDRONAR dealing with the exchange of financial information
relating to money laundering was also signed in 1995. In
1990, Argentina and the USG signed a mutual legal assistance
treaty that entered into force in 1993. Argentina is a party
to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

13. Cultivation/Production. Illicit cultivation of
marijuana remains negligible, and no other narcotics are
cultivated in Argentina. There was a large increase in both
the number and size of clandestine cocaine laboratories
seized in 2004 that indicates an increase in domestic
narcotic production, but the amount of cocaine produced
annually in Argentina is still small when compared to other
nations in the region.

14. Drug Flow/Transit. Most Argentine officials agree that
drug trafficking is a growing problem. The bulk of cocaine
and marijuana enters Argentina via Bolivia utilizing the
remote and often rugged land border between Bolivia and the
provinces of Salta and Jujuy. Narcotics smugglers also move
cocaine and marijuana across the river border between
Paraguay and the provinces of Misiones and Corrientes.
Heroin and some cocaine enter Argentina via commercial
aircraft. Increasingly, GOA officials are becoming concerned
about the use of small private aircraft to carry loads of
narcotics into Argentina from Bolivia and Paraguay. GOA
officials acknowledge that only a small percentage of
Argentine airspace is covered by radar and, in the absence of
effective radar information, it is simply impossible to gauge
the number of aircraft entering Argentina undetected. The
GOA recognizes the lack of radar coverage and is actively
pursuing the purchase of several mobile radar units. Based
upon intelligence reporting, Post,s DEA Attach believes the
highest volume method of narcotics transportation from
Argentina is via containers passing through Argentina's
maritime port system. As a member of MERCOSUR, Argentina
cannot open and inspect sealed containers from another member
state that pass through the country without direct
intelligence on a specific container. These uninspected
containers are considered to be a high trafficking threat.
Narcotics also are shipped out of Argentina using commercial
aircraft, and in some cases, by cruise ship passengers.
Couriers of cocaine from Argentina are primarily destined for
Europe. Couriers of heroin are primarily destined for the
United States.

15. Demand Reduction Programs. SEDRONAR is charged with
coordinating the GOA,s demand reduction efforts and in
December the newly-appointed head of SEDRONAR directed his
staff to develop a comprehensive demand reduction plan
focusing on youth education and public awareness. Drug use
is treated as a medical problem and addicts are eligible to
receive federal government-subsidized treatment. Buenos
Aires province, the most heavily populated province and also
the one with the largest number of regular drug users, has
its own well-established demand reduction program.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
16. Policy Initiatives. The September 2004 signing of the
LOA has allowed Post to receive an INL budget for the first
time since 1995 and begin providing much needed training and
assistance. However, as Argentina remains under Brooke
Amendment Sanctions for failure to make payments on a
bilateral loan, this may affect Post's ability to provide
assistance. As mentioned above, the GOA is embarking on the
creation of both a national security plan focusing on
narcotics interdiction and a national drug prevention plan.
The GOA has asked for Post,s input and assistance with both

17. Cooperation between the USG and Argentine authorities,
both federal and provincial, continued to be excellent in
2004. During 2004, USG assistance supplied a wealth of
equipment and training programs for Argentine law enforcement
personnel. Examples of USG-funded programs in 2004 include:
Two law enforcement tactical training courses provided by
DEA; a money laundering course sponsored by the Department
of Homeland Security (ICE); an airport narcotics
interdiction course sponsored by DEA/INL; and a prevention
seminar held in conjunction with SEDRONAR sponsored by PAS
and INL. DEA/INL also sponsored several GOA law enforcement
professionals, participation in regional training programs.
In addition to providing valuable training opportunities,
Post,s DEA detachment supports the Northern Border Task
Force (NBTF), Group Condor, and starting in 2004, the Mendoza
Airport Task Force. The DEA-supported task forces
demonstrate the benefits of interagency cooperation, and GOA
officials have expressed interest in expanding the program to
develop task forces in other narcotics trafficking hot spots.

18. The Road Ahead. The GOA is taking concrete steps to
combat both narcotrafficking and drug use, and Post will
continue to assist and encourage the GOA in this process.
The signing of the LOA has created a window of opportunity
for even greater cooperation, and Post will diligently seek
out still more opportunities to constructively engage the GOA
on narcotics issues. Possible areas of further cooperation
include expanding the task force program to include the
creation of a Tri-border task force in the province of
Misiones and a Port of Buenos Aires task force to control
narcotics trafficking between Buenos Aires and Uruguay. Post
will also continue encouraging the GOA to work toward
improving its radar system in the border area.

© Scoop Media

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