Cablegate: Argentina: 2009-2010 International Narcotics Control


DE RUEHBU #1272/01 3241834
R 201833Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: 2009-2010 International Narcotics Control
Strategy Report Part 1 Draft


1. (U) Per reftel, Buenos Aires draft INCSR report follows, with
partial changes suggested by INL Washington in response to first
draft (ref. B).

2. (SBU) Argentina

Part I. Summary

Argentina continued to be an important transshipment route for
Andean-produced cocaine during 2009, with most of the traffic going
to Europe as well as ephedrine bound for illicit trafficking in
Mexico and the United States. Marijuana also entered the country
in significant quantities, much of it for domestic consumption.
Argentina is a source country for some precursor chemicals sent to
neighboring countries for the production of cocaine. Argentina is
not a narcotics-producing country, though there is evidence of
small labs operating in remote areas in the northwest that
transform cocaine ""base"" into cocaine hydrochloride (HCl). An
Argentine Supreme Court decision in September 2009 decriminalized
the personal possession of small quantities of marijuana; the
decision is thought to imply similar treatment for other drugs, but
does not alter criminal penalties for selling or trafficking drugs.
Argentine law enforcement agencies sustain counter-drug operations
as a priority. The country is a party to the 1988 United Nations
(UN) Drug Convention.

Part II. Status of Country

Argentina is a transhipment route for cocaine from Bolivia, Peru,
and Colombia destined for Europe and other destinations. Large
seizures of cocaine in Europe have been linked to Argentina, and
individual carriers of small quantities from Argentina to Europe
are regularly discovered. There is evidence of increasing use by
traffickers of light aircraft to bring drugs into the country
across the long northern borders with Bolivia and Paraguay. A
cheap, readily available and mentally debilitating drug ""paco"" (a
derivative of cocaine production) is consumed in Argentina's poorer
neighborhoods. Seizures of illicit ephedrine continued to be
significant during 2009.

Argentina cooperated effectively with the United States, European
and other South American partners in narcotics investigations and
regularly participated in U.S.-sponsored training in 2009.
Argentina's enforcement efforts would benefit from increased
regulatory authorities to seize unregistered precursor chemicals
and to fine those found in possession of them.

Part III. Country Actions Against Drugs

Policy Initiatives: In September 2009, Argentina's Supreme Court
issued a ruling acquitting a group of young men convicted for
possessing small amounts of marijuana. Statements by members of
the Court made it apparent the ruling was intended to decriminalize
personal possession of small amounts of marijuana and that it may
be applied to other drugs as well. Convictions of the drug dealers
in the same marijuana case were upheld. Government of Argentina
(GOA) officials have also advocated decriminalization of personal
possession of small quantities via legislation as well, arguing
that such a measure would permit shifting of scarce police and
judicial resources away from individual users and toward drug
trafficking organizations, as well as freeing up funds for
substance abuse treatment.

In September 2009, the GOA established, under the authority of the
Chief of Cabinet, a National Coordinating Commission for Public
Policy Regarding Prevention and Control of Illicit Drug
Trafficking, International Organized Crime, and Corruption. The
Commission was composed of leading jurists, social scientists and
scientists who had participated in a 2008-2009 Scientific
Assessment Committee focused on the same issues. The new
Commission is to have a leading role in implementing a National
Counter-Drug Plan. Many elements of the plan focus on efforts to
deal with prevention and treatment of addictions. It also
envisions a role in enhancing coordination among national law
enforcement activities as well as addressing cooperation with
international partners. The commission has proposed tighter
controls over certain medicines as well as mechanisms to detect
suspicious patterns in the trade of precursor chemicals. The
National Plan envisions redefining the role of SEDRONAR, the
Secretariat of Planning for the Prevention of Drug Addiction and
Drug Trafficking.

Separately in 2009, law enforcement agencies of the Government of
Argentina were working to apply additional resources to what many
viewed as an increasing push by drug traffickers across the
country's northern borders by both land and air. One effort
focused on increasing the current minimal radar coverage in the

Accomplishments: Argentine security forces actively seized cocaine
during 2009, including several seizures during the first half of
the year of over 200 kilograms of cocaine. Almost 92 percent of
total Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)-assisted cocaine
seizures of 2,373 kilograms from January through September 2009
were made in the northwest border region by the Northern Border
Task Force (NBTF), the Gendarmeria (Frontier Guard), or the Salta
and Jujuy provincial police forces. Over 14 metric tons of
marijuana was seized in Argentina during this time frame,
principally on the eastern border region where Argentina, Brazil
and Paraguay meet or along the western border with Chile.
Argentine authorities seized over 8,750 kgs of ephedrine during
2009 in the greater Buenos Aires area, as well as 80,000 units of
MDMA seized by provincial law enforcement authorities. In
addition, Gendarmeria forces in northern Argentina seized 85 liters
of sulfuric acid and 200 liters of hydrochloric acid.

Law Enforcement Efforts: The Government of Argentina is seeking to
shift resources from the arrest and prosecution of individual users
toward the disruption and prosecution of drug traffickers and other
organized crime. The shift will require further refinement of
investigative capacities among law enforcement agencies and the
judicial system and additional refinements to eliminate case
backlogs and other delays in the legal system.

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. Independent judges and an active investigative press
are known to explore allegations of corrupt practices by individual
law enforcement or judicial authorities.

Agreements & Treaties: Argentina is a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972
Protocol, 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 (MLAT) 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. In addition, Spain,
the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, France, Italy and the
Netherlands provide limited counternarcotics training and
equipment. In 1990, 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 Inter-American Convention
against Trafficking in Illegal Firearms, and the Inter-American
Convention against Terrorism.

Cultivation/ Production: Some marijuana is grown in Argentina, but
most of that consumed in Argentina appears to enter from
neighboring countries. There are occasional discoveries of small
labs converting cocaine base to HCl in the country, utilizing
imported cocaine paste. The discovery of one lab preparing to
transform ephedrine in 2008 raised concerns about the emergence of
synthetic drug production in the country, but only small-scale
production facilities were discovered in 2009.

Drug Flow/Transit: Colombian cocaine HCl entering Argentina is
largely destined for international cocaine markets, primarily
Europe but also Asia and the United States. Cocaine HCl seizures
have risen over time, from a reported 2.5 metric tons (MT) in 2006
to 7 MT in 2008 and ? MT in 2009. There is an indigenous
population along the northern border with Bolivia that
traditionally consumes coca leaf and maceration pits were
discovered in 2009, though the scale of production is thought to be
limited. 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 investment
or smuggled directly into the United States. Most of the marijuana
consumed in Argentina originates in Paraguay and is smuggled across
the border into the provinces of Misiones and Corrientes, from
where it is then transported overland to urban centers or onward to
Chile. Argentina received significant ephedrine imports in 2007
and the first half of 2008, and subsequent investigations and
seizures indicated that much of the drug was bound for illicit
commerce to Mexico or the United States. Argentina changed its
regulations on ephedrine imports in September 2008, stopping the
excessive legal trade; Argentine and US law enforcement officials
continue to collaborate against attempts by drug traffickers to
illicitly import or transship the chemical.

Demand Reduction Programs: Drug use by Argentine youth has been
steadily climbing over the past decade, with marijuana prevalence
among high school students recorded at 8.1 percent in 2007; cocaine
use among the population aged 15-64 was 2.67 percent, according to
the United Nations Office of Drug Control. SEDRONAR has played a
lead role in coordinating GOA demand reduction efforts, but that
role may be evolving with the establishment of the National
Coordinating Commission for Public Policy Regarding Prevention and
Control of Illicit Drug Trafficking, International Organized Crime,
and Corruption. The GOA, in collaboration with private sector
entities, sponsors a variety of print and broadcast information
campaigns which have a nationwide reach.

Part IV. U.S. Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives: U.S. efforts in Argentina focus 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 among Andean and Southern Cone
nations; and maximizing host nation drug enforcement capabilities;
and fortifying bilateral cooperation with host nation law
enforcement agencies.

Bilateral Cooperation: U.S. Government agencies work closely with
host nation counterparts, including the Argentine Federal Police
(PFA), the Gendarmeria (Frontier Guard), Prefectura (Coast Guard),
Special Airport Police (PSA), Customs, and judicial authorities to
pursue specific investigations and to provide training and
equipment to enhance host nation capacity. Key U.S. Government
agencies operating in Argentina with counterparts include the Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE), and the Legal Attache (FBI). The State
Department and U.S. Military Group, responsive to the U.S. Southern
Command, provide support for training that contributes to the
counter-drug mission. Argentine authorities are receptive to
training, cooperation on investigations, and equipment donations.

A key element of U.S.-Argentine cooperation, funded with State

Department INL and DEA resources, 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. The U.S. Government also supports an Eastern Border
Task Force (EBTF), located in Misiones Province, that acts against
illicit drug smuggling activities in the tri-border area with
Paraguay and Brazil.

Argentine authorities actively coordinate counter-drug activities
with neighboring countries. U.S. Government support has helped
facilitate this cooperation by supporting joint training and
seminars in the region and providing software and equipment for the
sharing of real-time drug investigation leads.

The Road Ahead: The GOA has made significant progress in enhancing
its interdiction capabilities and its controls over precursor
chemicals. It seeks to apply new resources to prevention of use
and the treatment and rehabilitation of addiction. Such efforts
are crucial given the rapidly changing nature of the drug trade and
the potentially damaging impact of increasingly potent drugs
available through international traffic.

The Embassy has offered additional technical assistance and
training related to precursor chemicals, investigative techniques,
interdiction, and legal assistance. Some steps that could be
usefully taken by Argentina include: enhancing the regulatory
authority of law enforcement agencies to seize unregistered
precursor chemicals and to levy fines for their transport;
outlawing money laundering-type transactions without the necessity
of proving an illicit origin for the money; improving judicial
procedures for the confiscation and administrative sale of seized
criminal properties; and enhancing vigilance of the national
borders and air space, particularly in the north-central part of
the country.

© Scoop Media

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