Chile receives synthetic drugs galore from the Netherlands and Belgium

Record MDMA seizures at Chilean ports have linked another Latin American country to synthetic drugs from the Netherlands and Belgium, some of the world’s biggest ecstasy producers.

Authorities in Iquique and San Antonio, port cities in northern Chile, discovered nearly 475,000 MDMA tablets on various ships departing from the Netherlands and Belgium in the past two months. The shipments, valued at $17 million, came from the ports of Rotterdam, Zeebrugge and Antwerp.

According to the Chilean newspaper BioBio, the operation led to the arrest of seven Dominican nationals, suggesting that the Dominican Republic could have been a transit point for these drugs.

SEE ALSO: Chile struggles to cope with colossal influx of synthetic drugs

The smugglers hid pills in an RV, three cars and a mechanical compressor. Due to the route and modus operandi of the different shipments, authorities determined that the drugs belonged to the same organization.

The finds in northern Chile are not the first shipments of Dutch ecstasy to Chile, but recent seizures have entered the country by plane, not by boat. In April 2022, Santiago airport authorities found more than 6,000 ecstasy tablets in luggage arriving from the Netherlands, while in 2019 ecstasy was found in a table shipped from Netherlands by air.

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The constant flow of synthetic drugs from Belgium and the Netherlands to Latin America seems to have found a new market in Chile.

Chile is one of the richest countries in Latin America per capita, with a growing middle class, driving demand for synthetic drugs. The country’s long coastline and developed ports make it easier to send drugs than to other countries. MDMA production in Europe has led to increased supply for countries like Chile with growing demand.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2022, the Netherlands was the main source and departure point for ecstasy from 2016 to 2020, followed by Belgium. Drug traffickers often smuggled pills from Belgium and Germany to Latin America, particularly Argentina. After arrival, traffickers move the drugs to neighboring countries with large synthetic drug markets, such as Chile and Brazil.

SEE ALSO: Chile: another departure point for cocaine bound for Europe

Despite established routes between Europe and Argentina, Chilean ports have recorded few seizures of ecstasy. The recent stings demonstrate the connection between the Netherlands, Belgium and Chile. A direct shipping route to Chile would cut out the middleman, eliminate risk, and allow more MDMA to enter Chile compared to more common package shipments or drug smuggling by air.

Drug trafficking between Chile and Europe was previously seen as a one-way street, with several Chilean ports becoming transit hubs for Bolivian and Colombian cocaine bound for Europe. But the most recent seizure shows that the dynamic is changing; cocaine was heading to Europe from Chile, and synthetics were moving in the opposite direction.

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Alvin J. Chase