Colombia: First fully submersible vessel used to traffic narcotics seized

Colombian officials seized the first fully submersible vessel with the capacity to transport narcotics this past weekend. (Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters)

Colombian officials seized the first fully submersible vessel with the capacity to transport narcotics this past weekend. (Jaime Saldarriaga/Reuters)

By Olga Vélez and Ezra Fieser for Infosurhoy.com—16/02/2011

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The Colombian Navy, Air Force and Attorney General’s Office confiscated the first fully submersible vessel with the capacity to transport narcotics, Col. Manuel Hurtado, chief of staff of Colombia’s Pacific Command, said.

The submarine, which could reach a depth of nine feet (three meters), was discovered Feb. 13 on the Timbiquí River in the department of Cauca, about 275 miles (440 kilometers) southwest of the nation’s capital.

The 99-foot-long (30 meter) fiberglass vessel could accommodate a six-member crew, could carry up to eight tons of cocaine and featured two diesel engines, he said. The submarine also had an air conditioning unit and a 16 1/2-foot periscope.

The submarine was equipped to travel from Colombia to Mexico.

“The engines were already fully installed and ready to go,” said Hurtado, according to The Associated Press.

Hurtado said the vessel cost about US$2 million to construct.

Hurtado said law enforcement officials have confiscated at least 32 semi-submersible ships used to smuggle narcotics during the past decade, including 12 in 2010.

Gen. Jaime Herazo said the vessel belonged to “drug gangs,” but didn’t say which one, according to El Colombiano.com.

No arrests were made in connection with the seizure.

Guatemala: Authorities seize 18 kilograms of cocaine

GUATEMALA CITY – President Álvaro Colom’s fight against narcotics scored another victory when security forces arrested three suspected drug traffickers, seized 18 kilograms (39.6 pounds) of cocaine, 48 Spanish horses and weapons from a ranch west of the capital, authorities reported Feb. 13.

Agents raided the ranch, located off the Inter-American Highway in the department of Chimaltenango, just west of the capital. Juan Francisco Cotzajay Borrayo, 54, Gamaliel Rodenas Morales, 30, and Jorge Cotzajay Hernández, 26, were turned over to prosecutors, according to a report by the National Civil Police.

The thoroughbreds are estimated to be worth between US$15,000 and US$20,000, and police also seized two shotguns and ammunition, according to the Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre.

Traffickers frequently use Guatemala and other Central American countries to transport drugs from South America to the U.S.

About 250 metric tons of cocaine is moved through the country annually, according to Agence France-Presse.

Colombia: Fernando Jiménez Abadía arrested

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Fernando Jiménez Abadía, a suspected member of the narcotics-trafficking gang once led by Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía, recently was taken into custody in the city of Cali in the department of Valle del Cauca.

“He was the confidant of [Juan Carlos] and was responsible for sending large shipments of cocaine hidden in fish through Argentina to European countries, particularly Belgium,” Judicial Police Director Gen. Carlos Ramiro Mena Bravo said, according to El Pais.com.

Jiménez Abadía was transported to the nation’s capital, where he was placed in the custody of the Attorney General’s Office. He is expected to be extradited to Argentina, where he will face narcotics smuggling charges, according to El Colombiano.com.

Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía was extradited to the United States after being arrested by Panamanian authorities in 2008.

Colombia: Army destroys 12,000 coca leaf seeds

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The Army’s Second Division recently destroyed 12,000 coca leaf seeds during an operation in the department of Norte de Santander, military officials said.

The eradication took place in the village of La Pelota, in the municipality of Hacarí, where soldiers had been searching for narcotics traffickers.

It is unclear who owned the coca leaf seeds, officials said, according to Radio Santafe.com.

Mexico: Army seizes more than a half-ton of crystal meth

MEXICO CITY – The Mexican army seized more than half a metric ton of the drug crystal methamphetamine during a raid at a clandestine laboratory in the northwest state of Sinaloa on Feb. 13, the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA) said.

The lab was discovered in the village of Los Mimbres in the municipality of Cosalá after agents “noticed a strong smell” characteristic of the production of the drug, SEDENA said in a statement.

They confiscated 570 kilograms (1,250 pounds) of the synthetic drug in crystal form and 18 liters of it in liquid form.

SEDENA said the seized drugs were the equivalent of about a million doses and had a street value of around US$20 million, according to the Mexican daily El Universal.

Mexico: Residents upset over surge of drug-related violence

MEXICO CITY – Hundreds took to the streets in the nation’s capital on Feb. 14 to ask the government for tougher anti-drug legislation after 45 were killed in narcotics-related crimes this past weekend.

“No more violence, no more lack of safety, no more corrupt politicians, let’s move ahead with citizen candidates,” marchers on the touristy Paseo de la Reforma screamed after the recent bloodshed in the cities of Monterrey and Guadalajara, in the northern state of Chihuahua.

The majority of the deaths occurred in the state of Chihuahua, where at least 26 were killed, including 20 in Ciudad Juárez, which is considered the country’s deadliest city, prosecutors said, according to Agence France-Presse.

In the industrial city of Monterrey, a unit of soldiers and police known as the Immediate Reaction Group made a traffic stop that led to seven deaths when passengers in the two cars opened fire on the officers.

“Seven alleged aggressors lost their lives,” the Secretary of Defense said in a statement.

In total, more than 34,600 have died in narcotics-related turf battles since December 2006, when the government deployed soldiers to help police in the fight against drug cartels, according to EFE.

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