Argentina Drug Addiction
The city of Buenos Aries perches on the south side of the Rio de la Plata, where the long river that forms the border between Uruguay and Argentina opens up into the Atlantic Ocean. Along the waterfront you’ll find Club Harrods Gath & Chavez of Buenos Aries. It’s a posh club with 13 tennis courts, a swimming pool, volleyball court, yoga classes and much more for the privileged class. Children of the wealthy could learn fencing or play badminton or join a soccer team that played on the full-size soccer field to the north of the club.
Just 10 miles away lies Ciudad Oculta—the Hidden City. This is a city within a city, a district of Buenos Aires with 16,000 inhabitants. Those living in Ciudad Oculta live in the most severe poverty with no hope of recovery. The area has been hit with an overwhelming plague of addiction to a highly toxic form of cocaine called paco. Paco may be made in different ways, mainly by mixing raw coca paste with kerosene or another solvent, and then smoking it.
Paco is so toxic and so addictive that those who become addicted destroy everything around them. One man who was addicted sold everything he owned to get more of the drug then began to commit violent robberies. He destroyed his house in a delusional rage and then sold the land the house had been on and wandered the streets until a family member took him in. After repeated stints in psychiatric hospitals or being helped in a church-run drug rehab, he could not shake his addiction and returned to the drug use once again. This is a common story among the young people in Ciudad Oculta. Violence associated with the sale of this drug claims many lives.
Economic Downturn and Drug Enforcement Elsewhere Darken Argentina’s Prospects
A economic crisis in the early years of this century and porous borders with Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and other South American countries set the stage for an increase in drug trafficking and consumption in Argentina. With economic hardships increasing, those already in the lower economic echelons could be exploited by a drug dealer with a product to move. It’s estimated that 4 million people in Buenos Aires live in poverty. Many of these poverty-stricken people began to resort to drug use to allay their desperation.
At the same time, the United States was applying pressure on the Mexican government to break up the powerful drug cartels that were moving cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the U.S. As Mexican law enforcement began to damage the cartels’ business, the heads of the cartels began to look for new channels of manufacture and transport.
The drug lords of Colombia, responsible for the production of thousands of tons of cocaine each year, began to feel the pressure of the Drug War in their country as well. Coca crops were sprayed or burned. Key personnel were lost. They had to find a way to continue to manufacture cocaine and get the product out of the country to the U.S. and Europe, huge consumer markets.
Some of these drug traffickers found their relief in Argentina.
Precursor chemicals for cocaine production and for methamphetamine production could be obtained more easily in Argentina. There was little or no border control. Government officials were sufficiently corrupt that the drug lords could expect protection. Mexican drug traffickers began to set up methamphetamine production facilities. Some Colombian cocaine operations began to send raw coca paste to Argentina to be turned into cocaine hydrochloride, powder cocaine, which could then be sent on to other lucrative markets.
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