[h2]Potent (and Cheap) Side-Product of Cocaine Blasts Buenos Aires[/h2]May 28, 2007
Tens of thousands of recent drug addicts have overwhelmed Buenos Aires’ health and police services. Experts say the role of Argentina as a cocaine transshipment hub is to blame.
Compared to Paco, the street name given to the dangerously cut cocaine side-product flowing through Buenos Aires’ streets, crack cocaine is almost a luxury. On top of the toxic mix of chemicals used to turn coca into cocaine, then to cut cocaine to increase profits, Paco contains even more poisonous substances, including glass and dust. Furthermore, it is tremendously addictive and harmful.
The L.A. Times recently published a story on Paco and how it’s affecting Buenos Aires. This is what some of the victims had to say:
"So many are lost now."
"The worst is that the youngest face the same fate unless we can change things."
"Once you start smoking Paco, that's all you really care about. You don't sleep. You don't eat. You don't feel the cold. Nothing else matters, just your next Paco."
"The only thing of importance to me was getting high. I didn't care about my mother, my brothers and sister, anything."
"My son turned into a skeleton. He was a walking corpse."
Increased enforcement in countries identified as cocaine producers, such as Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, pushed drug trafficking operations into nearby nations. Examples are easy to find. The U.S State Department estimates that 20% of Colombia’s total cocaine output, equal to some 200 metric tons, now ships through Venezuela. Drug fuelled violence in Mexico left a death toll of 1000 during the first four months of 2007, a death count that appears set to overtake the 2000 killed in 2006. Brazil’s favelas are internationally infamous for their drug gangs, so much so that local tour operators have created guided visits of these shanty towns. And, now, Argentina, with its 4,989 km of coastline and major international city of Buenos Aires, is feeling the effects of its increasing role as a transit hub for cocaine coming from Peru and Bolivia.
According to Dr. Jose Granero, the Director of Sedronar, Argentina’s main anti-narcotics agency, drug traffickers gradually began to move the final processing step to Argentina, where there is a well developed chemical industry. Although still taking place in a much smaller scale than in Colombia, Bolivia or Peru, cocaine processing in Argentina is increasing. More and more, authorities are discovering underground cocaine labs, commonly known as ‘cocinas’, kitchens. And, as a result, Paco abounds in Buenos Aires, especially in the poorer neighborhoods.
Transshipment creates destinations
Since the 1980’s a dangerously inexpensive side-product of cocaine called bazuco has claimed the lives of addicts, usually young and poor, throughout South America, a continent known for its role as a producer of cocaine, but not as a consumer.
However, while consumption in South America is far from what it is in Europe or in the United States, it is nevertheless on the rise. Experts agree that the ready availability of the drug, and its cheap derivatives, is fuelling this trend.
On every level Paco is bad news -- it is cheaper than bazuco and, some say, deadlier. At less than 1$ per dose, and generating a high of around five minutes, Paco users end up consuming hundreds of doses a day. It’s no wonder then that heavy usage of the cocaine side-product can lead to irreversible brain, respiratory and heart damage in as little as six months.