'Paco' Under Scrutiny

The cocaine base paste market in the Southern Cone

8 October 2006
Equipo Intercambios, Giorgina Garibotto et al.
Translator: Barbara Fraser

Based 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.

Based 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.

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.



In the press:

Nr 14 -
October 2006
Pien Metaal (eds.)
24 pages
ISBN/ISSN: 1871-3408

About the authors

Pien Metaal

Pien Metaal is a researcher with TNI. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Political Science and International Relations from University of Amsterdam. She has been a member of the Transnational Institute's Drugs and Democracy team since 2002, though her participation with the Programme dates further back.

She lived in Latin America for several years, spending most of that time in the Andean region. During those years, she dedicated most of her time and energy to research, development and implementation of drug policy, particularly in relation to coca and cocaine, and worked with local and international experts and NGOs.  She has written numerous articles, and contributed to various books and publications on the drug policy in Latin America since 1996.

Tom Blickman

Tom Blickman (1957) is an independant researcher and journalist, based in Amsterdam. Before coming to TNI he was active in the squatters and solidarity movements in Amsterdam. He worked for Bureau Jansen & Janssen, a research institute on intelligence and police matters. Now he specialises in International Drug Control Policy and Organised Crime as a researcher at TNI's Drugs & Democracy Programme.

Recent publications from Drugs and Democracy

The Rise and Decline of Cannabis Prohibition

Cannabis was condemned by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as a psychoactive drug with “particularly dangerous properties” and hardly any therapeutic value. Ever since, an increasing number of countries have shown discomfort with the treaty regime’s strictures through soft defections, stretching its legal flexibility to sometimes questionable limits.

Cocaine: towards a self-regulation model

By taking cues from users’ self-regulation strategies, it is possible to design innovative operational models for drug services as well as drug policies, strengthening Harm Reduction as an alternative approach to the disease model.


Eyes Wide Shut: Corruption and Drug-Related Violence in Rosario

In Rosario, Argentina, the presence of criminal organisations involved in drug trafficking was a low priority for the government until New Year’s day 2012, when the killing of three innocent civilians by members of a gang sparked press attention.

First Southeast Asia Opium Farmers Forum Yangon 2013

In July the First Southeast Asia Opium Farmers Forum was held, bringing together some 30 representatives of local communities involved in opium cultivation and local community workers from the major opium growing regions in Southeast Asia.