Geopolitics

Pink Cocaine: New Mystery Drug Hits Buenos Aires Club Scene

'Tuci,' as it's known locally, is making its mark in the Argentina. But is it really the designer drug 2C-B, or just a dirty mix concocted by Colombian dealers?

Pink cocaine or the drug of the rich makes its way to Argentina
Pink cocaine or the drug of the rich makes its way to Argentina
Nahuel Gallotta

BUENOS AIRES The "menu" of options, sent every other week via WhatsApp, arrived like it always did, Josefina (not her real name) recalls. Only this time there was something that caught her eye besides the constantly increasing prices. "Tuci," it said.

Josefina's dealer was offering a new drug, one she'd never heard of before. And at 1,500 Argentine peso (46 euros) per gram, Tuci was the priciest of the lot. Surprised — and also curious — resent the list to a group of WhatsApp contacts. She wanted to see what her friends thought.

"Let's buy it. Come on, let's try it," one of them replied. "It can't be Tuci. It's too cheap," wrote another before adding: "You get 50 doses from one gram. It's nothing considering what the drug's really worth." That was the specialist opinion.

Tuci may be a new option in Argentina, but not elsewhere. In Europe it's known as the "cocaine of the rich," used by stars, models and politicians, according to a 2012 report in the Colombian weekly Semana. In other countries the drug goes by the name 2C-B. It is a synthetic version of a mind-altering substance developed in the United States in 1974. Its developer, Alexander Shulgin, called it pink cocaine.

In Argentina, it is consumed discreetly, and in exclusive circles. As far as Clarín could gather by taking to users, Tuci arrived about five or six years ago. It was initially linked to Colombian criminal elements, and consumed at electronic music clubs in the districts of Palermo and waterfront areas. People who were high on the drug caught the attention of other club goers, who wanted to try it themselves. If the interested person was a regular on the nightclub circuit and trusted, a meeting was arranged the following week.

At that time a gram cost 1,000 pesos (31 euros), about three-and-a-half times the cost of standard cocaine. Today it goes for twice that, making it the most expensive drug on the market. Normally it's bought outside discotheques. Last January, Government Decree 722/1991 included it on the list of the country's illegal substances. So far, though, police forces have reported just one pink cocaine bust — nearly three years ago, in Quiaca, Jujuy.

In Buenos Aires, Tuci is snorted, while in Colombia and Europe it is taken orally.

The word Tuci is short for tucibi (a phonetic spelling of 2C-B), which is also the alias (Alejandro Tucibí) of a drug pin known in Colombia as the "Pablo Escobar of synthetic drugs." He is said to have traveled to Europe in the decade after 2000, attracted by its electronic music bashes, and supposedly met two chemists there who introduced him to a drug they made for Colombians and the rich. He returned to Medellín with the recipe and began producing and selling the drug at electronic music parties.

The business spread to Cali and Bogota, and in time provoked a war between cartels seeking its formula. According to Semana, one of the crimes related to the fight over 2C-B was the 2012 killing, in Buenos Aires, of the Colombian paramilitary and drug-gang assassin Jairo Saldarriaga.

Tuci is reputedly under Colombian control in Buenos Aires. The drug is thought to arrive from Cali in western Colombia. But a Colombian NGO, Échele Cabeza, thinks the substance sold here is something else, that it may not really be 2C-B. "In 95% of cases they're fakes, adulterated substances, replacements and mixes of mind-turning substances that are very dangerous," the group told Clarín. "Most likely the mix includes Sildenafil (viagra) to increase stimulation. But that as raises the risk of tachycardia and heart attacks."

Tomás Pérez Ponisio, a member of PAF!, a civil association that works on drug-related social problems, says he used Tuci just once, at a party in Mar del Plata. He was offered it twice more. "It must be available... because you can get anything in Argentina. But it's not widespread like other drugs. We have had very few experiences reported to our webpage, and considering how they tell us they consumed it and the price paid for it, it wouldn't be 2C-B."

In Buenos Aires, Tuci is snorted, while in Colombia and Europe it is taken orally. The doses also vary greatly. In Argentina users buy it by the gram, which in other countries can last for various nights or be shared among a group.

"It is a drug to be taken in small doses," says Carolina Ahumada of PAF! "We're not used to that in Argentina." She says that taking it like cocaine or other drugs could be a problem. "There is a lack of information," she adds. "People don't know how to take it. In any case the Tuci we find in Argentina seems to be at a knock-down price."

A Colombian drug dealer currently jailed in Buenos Aires agreed to talk to Clarín. He admits he took Tuci in Bogota and says he found out about its arrival in Argentina while in jail. "Selling Tuci in Argentina is not good business for Colombians," he said. "Those who do it make us bring more than two kilograms per trip. Colombian drug dealers have never worked in small time dealing. This is only worth it if they stretch the drug with other products. There are people from my country who allow themselves the luxury of ordering some for their personal use, or ask relatives or friends traveling here to bring the odd 10 or 20 grams. Just to enjoy the "the original.""

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

For if nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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