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Column 030716 Brewer

Monday, March 7, 2016

Argentina and the USA seeking to Revive Cooperation versus Crime

By Jerry Brewer

Argentineans recently elected Mauricio Macri [56] as their new president, and President Macri wasted no time in vowing to remain true to the principles of democracy.

He immediately assumed a motivated and aggressive posture against drug trafficking and organized crime. Transnational organized criminals have stealthily and increasingly encroached into the Argentine homeland, engaging in violent battles for control of lucrative criminal turf and illicit contraband supply chains.

On February 27, the new Minister of National Security, Patricia Bullrich, accompanied by the Secretary for Security, Eugenio Burzaco, and the National Director of Regional and International Cooperation, Gaston Schulmeister, met with the Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Chuck Rosenberg, in Washington, D.C. Rosenberg previously served with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Rosenberg’s aim was to "open a door that was closed," and to reinforce the thought that "building a strategic partnership will benefit not only both countries, but the world as a whole."

The vicious scourge of drug trafficking, and the accompanying massive death tolls and misery within this hemisphere, are believed by many to be strategically driven, facilitated, manipulated, and/or orchestrated by rogue state governments in the Americas.

The decision of Venezuela’s leftist president, the late Hugo Chavez, to kick the DEA out of Venezuela in 2005, also caught on with Bolivian President Evo Morales. Ecuador's Rafael Correa followed suit and refused to renew the drug interdiction base at Manta for U.S. drug interdiction efforts in the region.  And Argentina's cooperation with interdiction efforts also waned, resulting in an increased prominence in the drug trade; and earning it the label of "the new narco state."

What followed, during the watch of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s administration, was an easy transition from having been a transit country for drug trafficking to a huge consumer country, “controlled by an ever growing nucleus of illicit power brokers and growing corruption of security forces.”

Argentina is now the second largest domestic market for cocaine in Latin America, after Brazil. As well, it has become both a major market and transit point in the world drug trade as international trafficking groups have expanded their activities, from a destination for synthesis to increasing exports, as well as consumption. 

Further motivation for Macri’s pledges on crime relate to the shame of Argentina in becoming a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department. 

At the DEA meeting, Rosenberg talked of the possibility for countries to restore a dialogue channel.  "DEA is very pleased that the United States and Argentina are able to rebuild their relationship."

Macri’s selection of Patricia Bullrich [59] to his cabinet as Minister of Security appears to be a proactive and strategic move. She previously worked for the state government in Buenos Aires Province on “security matters, developing a community policing project that became well-known nationally and internationally.” Bullrich also served in the Department of Criminal Policy and Penitentiary Matters.

President Macri campaigned strongly on pledges to tackle crime and fight corruption. This will require superior criminal intelligence and strong counterintelligence capabilities to recognize, interdict and monitor any continued acts of corruption and crime. Sectoring these enforcement efforts to stop the spread of transnational organized crime will require strong senior leadership and management for maximum efficiency and a tough anti-crime posture.

Taking control of each afflicted territory must be a well-coordinated effort, and it will require superb crime analyses. The policing techniques must be professionalized and modern.  President Macri shrewdly wants to strategically deploy his operating units via the Superintendent of Dangerous Drugs into the interior territories. Macri’s policing efforts must be tough and decisive against all violent criminal acts.

Argentina now consumes five times more cocaine than the global average, and has one of the highest usage rates in the world. Argentina has the highest prevalence of cocaine use among adults in South America. This is an open door for transnational organized criminality.

Last year ten police stations were raided in Rosario, Argentina following an order from the Federal Justice Department spotlighting the city's perception as a growing hub of organized crime and corruption.

Argentina critically needs proper coordination, training, and professionalization of criminal justice functions; an enhanced policing infrastructure; and strategically capable counterterror and security forces.

Areas in the provinces of Mendoza, Santa Fe, Salta, Jujuy and others may require military-like strategies to minimize heavily armed aggressive confrontations. Moreover, Argentina has little control of its borders with Paraguay and Bolivia that are extremely dangerous regions and heavily transited by criminal and insurgent-like guerrillas.

Furthermore, much of the rising rates of crime and drug abuse in these regions are due to the fact that drug traffickers are frequently paid in drugs and not cash.

Monitoring and aggressively pursuing issues of adaptability and flexibility of the criminal groups (that are a scourge throughout the hemisphere) must be a top and ongoing priority of President Macri's anti-organized crime enforcement posture.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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