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Organized crime sets its sights on peaceful Uruguay

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Andres Stapff/REUTERS

(Read caption) Members of a Murga (an Uruguayan carnival group) perform during the inaugural parade of the Urguayan carnival along 18 de Julio Avenue in Montevideo January 27.

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Insightcrime.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

Uruguay has long been one of the safest countries in Latin America, but some are warning that the influence of organized crime is on the rise, with gang shootouts in the capital and an increase in large-scale cocaine seizures.

A Jan. 23 story entitled “Shootout Between Two Gangs of Narcos” (most links in this blog are in Spanish), describes a 10-minute long gun battle between rival gangs on a city street. The story would seem more likely to appear in a newspaper in northern Mexico than in Montevideo-based El Pais.

But violent incidents such as this are becoming more common in the South American country, as drug trafficking groups from elsewhere in the region extend their activities there. On January 2, for instance, soccer agent Washington Oscar Risotto was gunned down in southern Montevideo, which police said was likely a revenge killing related to the drug trade. According to the US Department of State’s 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), drug trafficking is on the rise in the country, as evidenced by an increase in large-scale cocaine seizures since 2006.

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