Latin America: Criminal Groups Are Increasingly Selling Drugs and Opioids on the Dark Web
In Latin America and the Caribbean, criminal groups are increasingly using the dark web, social media and smartphone apps to promote and sell synthetic drugs and opioids. Between 2011 and 2017 alone, sales of these products nearly quadrupled globally and continue to show a significant upward trend.
In the document "Online Trafficking in Synthetic Drugs and Opioids in Latin America," the United Nations maintains that 30 suppliers or criminal organizations concentrate the sale of products such as synthetic drugs and fentanyl on the dark web. While it is recognized that this is an inconclusive figure, it can establish a minimum knowledge base for building a regional prosecution strategy.
The report notes that synthetic opioids are shipped from Asia (particularly China and India) to places such as Mexico, Colombia and Bolivia, which are receiving and production centers. However, there are intermediate countries, such as Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic, which serve as a transit point for distribution to final destinations such as the United States.
For their part, Internet sites for marketing have changed in recent years (especially since the COVID-19 epidemic) as they have become more complex to track and respond to. Three aspects are noteworthy.
First, most transactions on the Dark Web are done using Bitcoin, which provides criminals with relative anonymity. However, Bitcoin has begun to be replaced by private tokens, a service that mixes different types of cryptocurrencies at the same time, making them complicated to track.
Secondly, "traditional" dark site locations have started to be replaced as they are targeted by different national authorities. Faced with this situation, new options such as OpenBazaar and Televend have emerged. One of their basic characteristics is that they are decentralized sites, i.e. they do not rely on central servers. openBazaar is operated individually by participating users, which complicates tracking and prosecution. televend manages the purchase and sale of illegal goods through chatbots and even generates automatic payment addresses through cryptocurrencies.
At these sites, if a drug package is confiscated, the product is re-shipped free of charge. This is designed to build confidence in the consumer or, conversely, to minimize the risk of transactions for the end user.
Third, an increasing number of smartphone apps are being used to market these illicit substances. tinder and Grindr, dating and matchmaking apps, as well as Pinterest and Instagram can all have a broad reach and reach a targeted customer base. Sometimes the ads do not use drug-related words, but simply through themed hashtags or emojis. Social networks have low detection rates and are widely accessible compared to the dark web, which requires technical knowledge to access and navigate.
Given this trend scenario, there is a need to generate knowledge not only at the academic and governmental levels, but also to update legal frameworks, create institutional knowledge among law enforcement agencies, and develop prosecution techniques for cybercriminals.
From：On DarkNet – Dark Web News and Analysis
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