At least 17 people have died and more than 50 remain hospitalized, in varying degrees of seriousness, after consuming cocaine allegedly adulterated in an area on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentine official sources reported Wednesday. The death toll rose in the last hours from 9 to 17 after more deaths were confirmed in hospitals in the west and north of the Buenos Aires suburbs. “There are currently 56 people hospitalized, of whom 26 are on mechanical respiratory assistance (MRA) in the hospitals of the districts of San Martín, Tres de Febrero, Tigre, General Rodríguez, Moreno, Morón, Ituzaingó and Hurlingham”, official sources said. According to them, the number of people hospitalized for alleged consumption of adulterated drugs is “constantly increasing” and they have even reported cases of people who have died in their homes or in the street, although the exact number has not been identified yet.
The police of the province of Buenos Aires deployed since midday operations in the town of Tres de Febrero, northwest of the capital, in which they have arrested ten people and confiscated several wrappers that were similar to those found in the first victims. According to police sources quoted by local media, one of those intoxicated admitted that he had bought the drug in the vicinity of ‘Puerta 8’, a shantytown located in Tres de Febrero and where police operations are being carried out. From the same place, the provincial Minister of Security, Sergio Berni, assured that the deaths may be due to a process of “stretching” of cocaine, which consists in adding other components such as starch or talc to extend the narcotic effects, and for the moment it is not ruled out that it is another type of drug. “It is possible that the analysis will show that it is not cocaine, but talc with some anesthetic to generate that false sensation that one is drugged”.
The Government of the Province of Buenos Aires issued an unprecedented alert regarding cocaine consumption. “Go to a health facility immediately if you have increased difficulty breathing or tendency to sleep if you have ingested cocaine in the last 24 hours,” says a letter from the Ministry of Health. “Reinforce the accompaniment to any drug user who requires medical attention without judging or stigmatizing”, they added. In this sense, the head of Buenos Aires Security asked that those “who bought drugs in the last 24 hours have to discard them”.
So far, the Police of the province of Buenos Aires has arrested ten people in ‘Puerta 8’, all of them related to the alleged sale of the adulterated narcotic, where more than 20 raids have been carried out with more than 1,500 agents mobilized throughout the territory. The investigators are handling different hypotheses in this regard and the prosecutor Lapargo considered that it could be a “revenge” between drug traffickers. “It could be a settling of scores, but it is conjectural. I say that this is absolutely exceptional, it is not something that happens habitually so that I can compare it with another case and say ‘this is what happens in a settling of scores between gangs’, because we have no precedents”, he expressed.
While the authorities advance in the identification of the substance and its confiscation, prosecutor Lapargo also joined the call not to consume it if in possession of it. “Our anguish today is to be able to communicate it in such a way that those who are in possession of this poison know that they do not have to consume it, that this wave of deaths stops”, he exclaimed.