Chile: Northern Border Plan stops narco-trafficking, smuggling
By Carolina Contreras for Infosurhoy.com – 20/06/2013
More than 1.5 metric tons of cocaine, marijuana and cocaine paste were seized in April by the Counter-narcotics Brigade of Chile’s Investigative Police (PDI) in the city of Antofagasta as part of the Northern Border Plan. (Courtesy of the PDI)
SANTIAGO, Chile – It was the largest narcotics seizure in the northern city of Antofagasta’s history.
Two trucks entered the Andean nation from Bolivia this past April, when they were stopped by the Counter-narcotics Brigade of Chile’s Investigative Police (PDI) as part of “Operation Alto Chiza,” a component of the Northern Border Plan.
Here’s what the officers found when they opened false bottoms in each vehicle: more than 1.5 metric tons of cocaine, marijuana and cocaine paste, the equivalent of “one drug dose for every Chilean,” said Pablo Toloza, the governor of the Antofagasta region.
The drugs, valued at more than US$20 billion Chilean pesos (US$40 million), represent the largest seizure in the nation so far this year.
What happened in Antofagasta, which is 1,300 kilometers north of the nation’s capital of Santiago, symbolizes why the Northern Border Plan has been so successful in Chile’s counter-narcotics fight.
“It’s shutting down the drug business,” Toloza said.
Chilean authorities are using state-of-the-art technology as part of the Northern Border Plan to find narcotics, including drugs hidden in fire extinguishers (above) and looms in the city of Arica. (Courtesy of PDI)
Implemented in late-2011, the Northern Border Plan has bolstered the fights against narcotics and contraband in the regions of Arica y Parinacota, Tarapacá and Antofagasta by strengthening security along the about 947-kilometer shared border with Peru and Bolivia.Peru and Bolivia are two of the region’s largest cocaine producers, according to the United Nations.
With an estimated investment of $35 billion Chilean pesos (US$70 million) by 2014, the plan involves coordinated aerial, terrestrial and maritime surveillance and enforcement of the country’s legal and illegal border crossings.
Mobile X-ray systems for vehicle inspections, equipment with thermal imaging cameras that can operate at a distance of up to 25 kilometers and fiberscopes to detect drugs hidden in tight spaces are some of the equipment the plan utilizes.
PDI agents also have equipment to detect irregular loads in tires, fuel tanks, fuselages and bodies of any vehicle.
The equipment has enabled agents to detect unusual drug-concealment methods, such as cocaine hidden in fire extinguishers and looms from Peru, which were seized in the city of Arica in April.
“We’ve created a significant barrier at border crossings that has forced criminal organizations to modify their modes of operation with unusual techniques,” said Deputy Prefect Alex Schwarzenberg, the head of Arica’s Counter-narcotics Brigade.
Of the 27,376 kilograms of drugs seized in Chile in 2012, 14,921 kilograms were confiscated in the three regions where the Northern Border Plan has been implemented. Above, looms from Peru used to smuggle cocaine were seized in April in the city of Arica. (Courtesy of the PDI)
Of the 27,376 kilograms of narcotics sized in the country in 2012, 14,921 kilograms were confiscated in the three regions where the plan has been implemented.
In 2010, before the plan was implemented, a total of 7,841 kilograms of drugs were seized in the country’s northern region, representing 43.4% of the 18,080 kilograms seized nationwide.
In 2011, authorities impounded more than 24,000 kilograms of narcotics nationwide, including 8,713 kilograms in the northern region.
“With the Northern Border Plan, there was a 90% increase in drug seizures in the northern region of the country from 2010 to 2012,” Undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior and Public Safety Rodrigo Ubilla said during a public meeting in May.
This year, the government has allocated $5 billion Chilean pesos (US$9.9 million) for the plan, enabling authorities to buy scanners for border crossings; equipment and GPS systems for police vehicles; scanners that detects narcotics, explosives and chemical substances; and new telecommunications systems.
The Northern Border Plan has been so successful that it will be replicated during the second half of the year in the Atacama region, which shares its eastern border with Argentina. The region has 42 illegal border crossings used to transport narcotics, Atacama Gov. Rafael Phorens said.
“We’ve decided to stay one step ahead of the criminal groups, who try to bring drugs in through Atacama, so we’re going to reinforce this area,” Ubilla said. “We’re going to keep working and providing the best possible conditions that will allow our police officers to combat organized crime.”