Dominican Groups Eye Lucrative Patagonia Drug Market

A series of arrests of Dominican nationals in southern Argentina over recent months have highlighted a highly lucrative drug market in the area, where they can be sold for higher prices than in Buenos Aires.

Authorities in the city of Las Heras, in the southern province of Santa Cruz, arrested three Dominican men on March 16 accused of leading a micro-trafficking organization, reported La Vanguardia Noticias.

A day earlier, three men from the Dominican Republic and one Argentine national were detained in the city of Comodoro Rivadavia, in the province of Chubut, also accused of transporting drugs with intent to distribute.

In September 2018, as a result of a nine-month-long investigation, federal police dismantled a group known as “Banda del Caribe” (Caribbean Gang). Four Dominicans and one Colombian were arrested while cash, mobile phones and ammunition were seized. They were accused of periodically transporting cocaine from Buenos Aires to various cities in the province of Santa Cruz.

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Dominican micro-trafficking crime groups might have found themselves a lucrative, and seemingly easy to tap into, market in the scenic cities of Argentina’s Patagonia.

According to an expert who spoke to InfoBae, a kilo of cocaine worth $10,000 in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, can be sold for $15,000 in any of the provinces in Patagonia.

A gram of cocaine in Ushuaia or Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego can sell for between 800 to 1,000 pesos (between around $20 and 25). In Buenos Aires, the price drops to between 300 to 500 pesos (around $7 and $12).

The high markups are related to the costs involved in transporting products to these remote cities and a particularly growing market.

Speaking at a press conference in the city of Trelew, Chubut, Argentina’s Security Secretary, Eugenio Burzaco said that consumption of drugs per capita in the six provinces that make up Argentina’s Patagonia (La Pampa, Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Santa Cruz y Tierra del Fuego) is “higher than the national average” and growing.

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Experts claim the groups in charge of transporting the drugs in small quantities from Buenos Aires to Patagonia, mostly by bus, are becoming more sophisticated.

While Dominican nationals are not the only ones involved in Argentina’s growing microtrafficking problem, the string of arrests reported in recent months might suggest the groups they control are developing in size and reach, which has caused some confrontations between them. This has forced authorities to zoom into their activities.

“They are not large organizations, but mainly family clans: parents, children and cousins. Lately, we have also started noticing confrontations between groups of Dominicans caused by money that was not paid back or favors that were not returned,” a judicial source told Infobae.