How cocaine base has become an ever-increasing problem for Chile

SANTIAGO – Chilean police seizes on a weekly basis large amounts of cocaine base, or pasta base in Chilean. The country has one of the highest rates of users in Latin-America, and the numbers continue to increase. More than a health problem, cocaine base is a social problem in Chile, with its roots in Pinochet’s dictatorship.

A small press release from the Chilean Investigative Police (PDI) on Monday morning. 262 kilos of cocaine base had been seized in the Valparaíso and Santiago region. The drugs consisted of 4 million doses. Although the seizure was big enough to make national headlines, the Chilean authorities seem to be fighting a running battle here.

For years, the use of cocaine base has been much more than just a criminal problem. It is a social problem, with its roots deeply embedded in Chile’s political history.

The so-called “poor man’s cocaine” is a chemical substance, a mixture of cocaine leaf extract, methanol and kerosene. Despite its cheaper price compared to powder cocaine, it still contains a relatively high percentage of cocaine sulfate. It is often smoked in cigarettes or marihuana joints and generates a short high that users compare to an adrenalin or energy kick. The effect, combined with the price, has made this drug globally popular among lower classes, and in Chile the majority of cocaine base users live in the poblaciónes.

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Chile leads in Latin-America when it comes to pasta base

Chile leads in Latin-America when it comes to the percentage of pasta base users. According to a 2014 investigation led by the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, 5.3 percent of Chilean high school students had smoked the substance, while in Bolivia, number two on the list, only 1.8 percent of the students had used cocaine base at least once.

Looking at the general population, 3.1 percent of the Chileans had used the drugs. In Peru, number two on the list, this was 1.3 percent. Where countries as Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are seeing increasing numbers as well, cocaine base in Chile has become symbolic for the deterioration of the Chilean lower-class society. Exactly what pasta base was introduced for in Chile.

Read tomorrow about how Pinochet introduced cocaine base to the Chilean poblaciónes – and made millions of it.

Watch how ‘paco’ destroys neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, Argentina


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