'Paco' Under Scrutiny

The cocaine base paste market in the Southern Cone
Transnational Institute (TNI)
TNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper 14
October 2006

debate14Based on two studies carried out in the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, this report examines the origin, characteristics and impact of the explosive increase in cocaine base paste in urban areas. It also highlights the variety of products consumed in these cities and the substance known as crack that is consumed in Brazilian cities. The Brazilian experience with this consumption could serve as an example and a lesson for the Southern Cone.

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The question of whether there is a cause-and effect relationship between the explosive increase in consumption of paco in Buenos Aires and Montevideo and a transformation in the structure of drug (cocaine) trafficking in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil is relevant to an evaluation of the success of failure of policies implemented in the Andean Region to stem the supply of cocaine. It is worth asking if we are again witnessing the consequences of a ‘balloon effect’ that may be transforming, expanding and shifting cocaine hydrochloride manufacturing from the Andean Region to the southern part of the continent, with a resulting impact on the consumer market.

In recent years, dozens of laboratories where cocaine hydrochloride was apparently manufactured have been found in Argentina — the first time such discoveries have been made. In the first half of 2006 alone, Argentine authorities seized as much cocaine as they had confiscated in the entire previous year. Until then, the country had not played a role in the manufacturing of cocaine; it had been limited to a significant role in the transit of the drug towards markets in Europe and the United States. This new trend could be related to the fact that both Argentina and Brazil have a chemical industry capable of producing the inputs necessary for manufacturing cocaine, as well as the difficulties that the traditional cocaine-producing countries have encountered in gaining access to chemical precursors.



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