Drug authorities in Argentina seized 1.6 tons of cocaine hidden in animal feed destined for Dubai and detained 12 people in an operation, local police said on Friday.
The seizure, which took place overnight from Thursday to Friday in the central city of Rosario, highlights the role played by local ports in trafficking South American drugs internationally.
The cocaine "is worth approximately US$60 million," said Mariano Giuffra, head of the dangerous drugs department in the federal police.
The arrests took place at various sites around the country, with 12 detained.
"They are all Argentines and some of them are known drug-traffickers," added Giuffra, who said investigations had been ongoing for six months.
Several firearms, sports cars and a large amount of cash were also seized, along with documentation revealing ties to "international manoeuvres," said the official.
Rosario, located 310 kilometres (190 miles) from Buenos Aires, is Argentina's third-largest city and the main port for agricultural exports to the Atlantic. It is also the most violent city in Argentina, with a murder rate three times the national average.
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Between January and July, there were 168 homicides in the city, a third more than in the same period in 2021, with 70 percent concentrated on four neighbourhoods.
The cocaine had been hidden in bags of corn fodder that was about to be loaded onto a container destined for Dubai.
Police said the cocaine probably originated in Colombia, the world's largest producer of the drug and that around 50kg was due to remain in Rosario for local dealers to sell.
While most cocaine is produced by Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – where growing coca leaf, which is the main ingredient in the white powder, is legal – experts say Argentina has increasingly taken on an important role in trafficking the drug.
Argentina has several major ports, has a large supply of quality chemicals needed to turn coca leaf into cocaine, and provides ample opportunities for money-laundering.