Tranquilandia “branch” Punta Lara and a hated DEA agent

“The transit is from the finger to the nose.”

The man allowediOr make that joke one morning more than 30 years ago, when the statistics on the influence of drug use on the insecurity that Argentina was experiencing showed a sustained and worrying growth. Faced with this reality, a reassuring response was insisted on: “Argentina is a country of transit, not of consumption”.

The author of the joke, cruel and painful by the way, was Abel Reynoso, a man who was then 43 years old and who was returning to his native Argentina after having left, at 13, the Lanús where he was born. He came from the United States and appeared that morning before judicial, police and political authorities of those 90s as the new head of the DEA in Argentina.

The country was beginning to come out of that dream that for years had kept it dangerously off guard and that was summed up in a filler: “Argentina is a transit country”.

The euphoria that had left the recent Operation Shrimp, the seizure of almost 900 tons of cocaine hidden in frozen crustaceans ready to leave for Europe, perhaps helped sustain that belief.


At that time Puerto Madero was not Puerto Madero and in that presentation, according to a journalistic chronicle, the guests at the charming Shorthorn Grill restaurant in Recoleta ate empanadas, provoletas, sausages, black pudding, roast beef, chorizo ​​steak and strawberries and chocolate mousse. After receiving the fake laughter that aroused his “joke” about him “transit country”, the head of the DEA gave them a reality check. And he warned that if Argentina did not take charge of decisively combating drug trafficking, it was on its way to suffering from Mexico and Colombia. Thirty years after those empanadas, prison statistics would show an unstoppable relationship between crime and addiction, from the outburst, the motojet attack passing through the entrance and other more elaborate blows.

The “joke” that agent Reynoso made did not sit well with them

In 1988, Economic Criminal Judge Julio Virgolini was convinced that Operation Prawn had had to do with the adventures of the Medellin Cartel, which even though its boss Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was in serious trouble, continued to control more than 80 percent of world traffic.

Virgolini imposed some situations related to the case on his counterpart from La Plata, the then judge Ricardo Ferrer and the links of a couple detained in Mar del Plata with some people from La Plata who could be linked to the Colombian Jhon Arroyave.


More than 150 procedures were ordered between discreet raids and break-ins in homes and some bowling alleys in the city.

In the political environment of La Plata, the tremors of the scandal caused by the Simenter case were still felt, a policeman who was part of the custody of the then governor and who had been linked to drug trafficking to Spain. And in the world of entertainment a mysterious name began to sound: the Hindu, a character who was linked to the provision of cocaine to “Famous” of those years.

In February 1988, the judge from Mar del Plata, Pedro Hofft, kicked an anthill and confronted the political and police authorities of the Province by suggesting that the Medellín Cartel, with Pablo Escobar still in command, was operating in our country. The then Minister Luis Brunatti handed over 580 police files to the investigation.

While this was happening, in La Plata Judge Ferrer received information that at first seemed preposterous: “A landing strip hidden in the Marginal Jungle of Punta Lara”. The first thing that came to the magistrate’s mind was to ask feasibility questions and the answer was conclusive: “All That’s a Big Swamp”. In fact, over the years, the swamp has swallowed Route 19 that connects Punta Lara with Villa Elisa. A witness, a man from the area who used to go eel fishing near Boca Cerrada, claimed to have found a trail of beacons made from oil cans. He said that some were still burning and that the path led deep into the jungle.


It was joked that there could be a branch of Tranquilandia in Punta Lara.

Tranquilandia was a huge area in the Colombian jungle between Caquetá and Meta, in the Llanos de la Yari where Pablo Escobar had the idea of ​​setting up one of the largest kitchens in which the Medellín Cartel maintained its power, with nineteen laboratories. and eight runways.

The Poppy Network connected Bolivia and La Plata. Was it deactivated?

Encouraged by Hofft, his colleague from Mar del Plata who considered that “everything was possible” when it came to operations linked to Escobar, a search was ordered in the Marginal Jungle of Punta Lara. Invisible from the air, Ferrer sent 150 police officers to rake the area. They thus found a crossword puzzle of paths laid out with machetes and two precarious houses where a vegetable garden and some laying hens showed that until not long ago people had lived there.

The area was marked between Arroyo Pereira, Punta Colorada and the border with Hudson. And he made sure, although without many details, that there was “remains” of the operation of a cocaine laboratory.

Almost at the same time that he became aware of the dubious discovery of a small Tranquilandia in Punta Lara, Judge Hofft received a death threat and a plan to kill him was denounced. Meanwhile, another federal magistrate, Eduardo Pettigiani, agreed to mention “the Villa Elisa network” when referring to the discovery of another important kitchen in the north of La Plata.


On Saturday, February 4, they raided a confectionery called Vogue, at 54 between 5 and 6, and took several people detained. There was already talk of the La Plata Cartel and 280 arrest warrants were issued.

Everything indicated that the Buenos Aires capital was one of the points of a triangle: Bolivia-Mar del Plata-La Plata.

Escobar named his gigantic network of kitchens in the middle of the jungle Tranquilandia / AFP

The murder of a printer, Luis Castro, which occurred in front of a house on 13 and 36 in City Bell, triggered the hypothesis that “the tip of the ball”, although the victim could never be linked to drug trafficking and his death was marked by mystery. Castro was shot from a Dodge Polara car when he rang the doorbell at the house of an alleged client of his printing company.

The police did not hesitate to point out that whoever was accused of being his murderer, a certain Rocky de Ringuelet, was part of the “Sign” platense. Castro’s wife, for her part, always maintained that her husband’s crime had been a drug crime, although she never found an explanation for it. That crime triggered all kinds of hypotheses, some crazy ones like the one triggered by the strange disappearance of the owner of the house in front of which the crime occurred, a certain Pajarito and a woman nicknamed “The Cuckoo”.

The then Secretary of Security of the Province, Orlando Caporal, summoned the media to announce that the war on drugs had been declared in the capital of Buenos Aires. and he promised “give them everything”. Already at that time the existence of a so-called “Red Poppy” which, it was said, connected La Plata with Bolivia in a mechanism that “traffic” I didn’t have much but I did have internal consumption.


Very shortly after that “joke” that so badly it fell to some diners of that meeting of presentation of credentials of the head of the DEA in Argentina, the official hit the turn and left a bomb activated. He did it in a report that he gave to a current affairs weekly and that in the gossip he provided material to cut speculation about whether or not the man had had authorization from the US Embassy to say what he said. The truth is that Reynoso charged against the government of Carlos Menem by stating that “he was not interested in fighting” against drug trafficking “because I was in business”.

As in the movies and series about drug traffickers, the agent turned on the fan and said things such as that the Argentine security forces did not receive funds to fight drugs. And that had to do with a political decision. And also, as happens in series and movies, Reynoso was called “above” and they lifted him in weight. The Embassy issued a statement disavowing his statements and days later they informed him of his transfer to Washington where an office full of papers was waiting for him, as a form of punishment for an operative man like him. He resigned and makes sure that he lives in Los Angeles, dedicated to private security.

The area was marked between the Arroyo Pereira, Punta Colorada and the limit with Hudson

Reality or urban legend? He always ran the version that together with his resignation, Reynoso left on the desk of his bosses in Washington a multi-page report with names, surnames and information about “people with a lot of power” in the network of drug trafficking in Argentina and the doors that, in light of the statistics, would open wide in the following years in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.

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