Country Listing

Chile Table of Contents


Narcotics Trafficking

Chile long remained relatively unaffected either by drug trafficking or by extensive drug abuse. Some expansion, both of drug trafficking and of narcotics abuse, occurred during the late 1960s and early 1970s, reflecting an international trend. By the early 1970s, Chile had become an important regional center for cocaine processing. The problem had become sufficiently acute to occasion the passage of the country's first antinarcotics law by Allende's Popular Unity government early in 1973. Later that year, the military government formed a special narcotics unit within the Caribineros and began a big crackdown. This was highly effective, bringing the narcotics problem under control within a year. The Carabineros also pioneered the introduction of antinarcoticsoriented , youth education programs. A pilot project was set up in 1976, eight years before any comparable program was initiated in the United States. Toward the end of the period of military rule, a new form of drug-related crime was noted in the northern Chilean provinces adjoining the Bolivian and Peruvian frontiers: the illicit exporting to Peru and Bolivia of chemicals used in the processing of cocaine.

Since the early 1980s, drug trafficking has been growing in Chile. The country has become more prone to drug trafficking not only because of its geographic configuration and location, bordering on the world's two leading producers of coca--Peru and Bolivia--but also because of its economic stability. With its openmarket economy and bank-secrecy laws, Chile is an attractive haven for money laundering. A number of drug traffickers who were expelled by the military regime after the 1973 coup cultivated contacts with drug-trafficking groups while living in exile in the United States and Europe. On returning to Chile to reside, these traffickers, acting as finance men and heads of operations, profited from their international contacts. Chile served as a good transit country also because of its booming export activities. In mid-1992 an operational director of the Carabineros reported that money obtained through drug trafficking was being laundered through the construction industry in central Chile and the fishing industry in the far south.

In order to enhance the country's antidrug capabilities, the Aylwin government signed several antidrug agreements in 1992, including one with Italy in October (which also included antiterrorist cooperation) and one with Bolivia in November. Chile's most serious drug-related problems by 1992 reportedly involved transit through the country along the northern corridor to Arica. In early 1993, a new cocaine/cocaine paste drug route reportedly came from Bolivia through the Azapa Valley, an area with a sizable Bolivian and Peruvian population located to the east of the city of Arica. At that time, the Investigations Police began implementing a new drug enforcement plan, with the aid of a turbo Cessna 206 for patrolling the area along the Bolivian and Peruvian borders, in coordination with motor vehicles and twenty powerful all-terrain Cagiva motorcycles, donated by Italy.

After 1989 drug-related crime increased dramatically, particularly in the northern part of the country, to the extent that police reportedly estimated in 1990 that 20 percent of the population of the city of Arica between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four were habitual drug users. Of 385 homicides (or 0.3 per 10,000) in Chile during 1990, nearly 20 percent were classified as drug related. By comparison, eight were classified as resulting from acts of terrorism. During 1990 about 30 percent of robberies were also said to be drug related. The size of drug seizures varied considerably. In 1991 some 220,000 kilograms of cocaine were seized, compared with 36,500 in 1988 and 798,000 in 1989. Police estimated that only 10 percent of the drug traffic was getting intercepted. Most of the cocaine seizures occurred in the northern port of Arica.

Data as of March 1994