The drug traffickers who pay US$3,000 for a fernet and collect the orders from the supermarket in their cells

Robert Collins
Robert Collins

Global Courant

What can be done with a prisoner who has the economic capacity to pay a prison guard three thousand dollars to bring a bottle of fernet into the pavilion? What measures must be taken to prevent him from planning his escape by helicopter from the very courtyard of the prison? How could the massive use of cell phones in prisons be stopped, something as prohibited as it is constant?

These questions are not abstract. They refer to specific cases and have as protagonists the drug lords of Rosario and his second lines. The “top” group of high-risk prisoners -“Los Rosarinos” and one or two others- has 25 members.

The vast majority are housed in two maximum security complexes of the Federal Penitentiary Service (SPF): the Ezeiza CPI and the Marcos Paz CP2. In some cases, the least, Rawson Unit No. 6, Chubut, plays as the third leg of prison containment.

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The panorama with these prisoners is complex.

The prison complexes of Piñero, Marcos Paz and Ezeiza.

On the one hand, prosecutors and judges denounce that they do what they want behind bars. From getting fernet to ordering homicides. That is why they ask, among other measures, that cell phone signal inhibitors be installed in prisons. Also, that their communications be controlled through the public telephones of the pavilions and that their visits be restricted.

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On the other hand, those involved – through their lawyers – are flooding the courts with habeas corpus appeals and other legal herbs denouncing that their constitutional rights are violated. When they are told they are wrong, they appeal. And when they say “no” again, they appeal again.

In the midst of all this -and with a drug war in Rosario that this year already exceeds 150 homicides-, a week ago the authorities of the Ministry of Justice of the Nation (on which the SPF depends) decided to move the pieces of the board.

Pencil in hand, they rearmed the narco neighborhood of “Los Rosarinos” which has three great exponents: Ariel “Guille” Cantero (35), leader of Los Monos; his archenemy Esteban Lindor Alvarado (44); and the Peruvian Julio Rodríguez Granthon (29).

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Ariel “Guille” Cantero, leader of Los Monos, in prison.

The three are being investigated for continuing to run their structures from prison, even for ordering homicides. The most colorful note was given by Alvarado – sentenced to life imprisonment, who on March 10 was about to escape from Ezeiza with a helicopter.

He had had the aircraft imported for these purposes directly from Spain and planned everything with the help of a smart watch that linked to a cell phone hidden in a colleague’s cell.

It was precisely Alvarado who caused the last move of the SPF to try to control “Los Rosarinos”. The strategy -which was general and not specific- materialized in an operation on Monday, July 17, after on the 13th the Federal Oral Court 2 of Rosario ordered his “urgent transfer” from Ezeiza to another unit where the extra security measures ordered by Justice could be met.

The SPF did not change Alvarado’s jail because the Ministry of Justice managed to explain to the court that it is not facing a “location” problem, but a “system” one. In fact, Alvarado in the story of him behind bars has already rotated from the Piñero provincial prison (Rosario) to Marcos Paz and, from there, to Ezeiza.

In addition, the extra measures imposed on the prisoner in his communications and visits were appealed by his lawyer Fernando Arias Caamaño and currently the “complaint” is before the Supreme Court of Justice.

Motions and habeas corpus

Under the certain assessment that, today, there is no criminal unit that guarantees the security levels demanded by judges, prosecutors and the Narcocrime Prosecutor (Procunar), for prisoners such as the Rosario drug traffickers, from the SPF they put together a contingency plan.

This would be a first step with a view to a more general project that the Ministry of Justice of the Nation would be putting together to give a new framework of confinement to the so-called “high-profile” prisoners that, for the most part, they group under the name of “Los Rosarinos”.

At the beginning of the year, of the 11,500 prisoners housed in federal jails, 72 were considered “high profile.” Today the list was refined and 25 remained. The operation on Monday the 17th was focused on those 25.

Everything was done by surprise and generated several legal kicks, including that of Mariana Barbitta, Rodríguez Granthon’s defense attorney, who before she knew it was transferred from Ezeiza Penitentiary Complex 1 to Marcos Paz 2.

By the time Barbitta filed a habeas corpus – as a way of trying to stop the move (she had succeeded when they wanted to move it to Rawson) – Granthon was already in Marcos Paz.

“The Accommodation Unit (Ezeiza Complex) does not have a pavilion which can be used solely for the inmate in question, or a sector so that he can be isolated in an individual cell,” reported the SPF, which in the CIR (Initial Risk Classification) system defined Alvarado as follows: “Escape: high-very high, Suicide; low-very low; Conflict: very low.”

Mega-operation in Rosario against the businesses that “Guille” Cantero manages by phone from jail. Photo Juan Jose Garcia.

As Clarín was able to learn, for a week the addresses of Rosario’s drug trident – “Guille” / Alvarado / Granthon – were established like this.

Alvarado is still in the Ezeiza prison, but much more isolated. He stayed in Module 6, which has four pavilions now exclusively occupied by “Los Rosarinos”. They put him in “C”, where only the so-called “King of Ephedrine”, Mario Segovia, and his son Matías are. There he has no contact with them and, apparently, he only goes out to the patio for an hour. They say that his family found out about the change because Alvarado, shouting, told another prisoner that they had moved him.

In total, he can only call three relatives and one of his lawyers by landline phone. The numbers are on a list and if he tries to dial another, software blocks communication.

A surprise search in the Piñero prison, where members of Los Monos, Los Funes and Los Camino are housed.

A special sector was conditioned for Granthon: it ended in pavilion 7 of Module 5 of Marcos Paz with a twin system to which, in the same unit (but in pavilion 7 of Module 2), is “Guille” Cantero. The leader of the Monos has been there for a while after having passed through Piñero, Rawson and Ezeiza. In Marcos Paz, the brother of “Pájaro”, assassinated in 2013, occupies the three wings of his pavilion: the space of 18 cells.

The million dollar question is whether this is enough and also, to what extent it is legal or constitutional to limit both their movements, communications and contacts.

On one side are the defense attorneys, all of them top-notch, and salaries that, you can guess, are in dollars. On the other hand, a plan that includes reducing the contacts of the prisoners and even their purchases in the canteen because, apparently, the supermarket orders are so large that it is impossible to see what is inside their cells. In some pavilions, nine cameras have already gone from 80 to avoid leaving blind spots, not even when they go to the bathroom.

The debate includes the installation of cell phone signal inhibitors, a system that began to be implemented just a few days ago in the Piñero prison, in Rosario. The Procunar strongly points to this, but it does not seem to be the priority of the SPF, which alleges possible damage to health due to the frequency of the inhibitor and difficulties with the radio wave that, for example in Ezeiza, they maintain could affect the international airport.

Everything, of course, could be avoided or mitigated if outside, in Rosario, the anti-narcotics policies gave some result. But, as is well known, the cocaine business is powerful, millionaire and at this point it is winning.


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The drug traffickers who pay US$3,000 for a fernet and collect the orders from the supermarket in their cells

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