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72nd Poseidon Task Force against Narcotrafficking: Direct Offensive against Narcotrafficking

72nd Poseidon Task Force against Narcotrafficking: Direct Offensive against Narcotrafficking

By Geraldine Cook/Diálogo
December 14, 2021

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Amid the inclement weather and the inhospitable swamps, rivers, and coastal areas of the Colombian Pacific, members of the 72nd Poseidon Task Force against Narcotrafficking, a unit of the Colombian Navy, conduct operations to curb the boom of narcotrafficking in the area, which has large concentrations of coca leaf, and close maritime routes to illegal traffic that seek to move the drug to international destinations.

The task force’s commander, Colombian Navy Rear Admiral Orlando Alberto Cubillos Chacón, spoke with Diálogo about his mission to neutralize the narcotrafficking chain in the region, as well as the progress made in the fight against this scourge.

Diálogo: What are the main objectives of the 72nd Poseidon Task Force against Narcotrafficking?

Colombian Navy Rear Admiral Orlando Alberto Cubillos Chacón, commander of the 72nd Poseidon Task Force against Narcotrafficking: Our main objective is the fight against narcotrafficking to prevent criminals from using maritime, riverine, and coastal areas, and in this way to deal a tough blow to the finances and logistics of GAO [Organized Armed Groups] and GDO [Organized Criminal Groups]. To reach this objective, we carry out naval operations and take part in the State’s unified action, with increased institutional presence in the affected territories, such as basic services, infrastructure, education, and justice, among others. Our action enables us to strengthen multimodal interdiction against the narcotrafficking chain and to coordinate our operational capabilities with countries in the region to combat this scourge.

Diálogo: What strategies are you implementing to combat security threats in the region?

Rear Adm. Cubillos: One of the greatest threats to security in the region and in Colombia in the maritime scenario is narcotrafficking, which is one of the main sources of financial resources for criminal organizations that operate in countries of the region and cross over to other continents.

The focus of the consolidated strategies in the fight against narcotrafficking aligns with the Anti-drug Policy and the Strategy to Combat Drug Trafficking of the country’s defense sector. Our naval operations target the different subsystems in the narcotrafficking chain, with an emphasis on comprehensive interdiction operations against drug production and trafficking; the Orion naval campaign against drug trafficking, through international cooperation and transversal initiatives, focused on comprehensive prevention and international cooperation, among others.

We execute maritime, riverine (including underwater inspections), and coastal operations to curb criminal actions aimed at increasing cocaine hydrochloride production, the trafficking of chemical precursors, and the use of new narcotrafficking routes.

Diálogo: What troops make up the 72nd Poseidon Task Force against Narcotrafficking, and what kind of capabilities do they have?

Rear Adm. Cubillos: Poseidon consists of highly trained, skilled officers, noncommissioned officers, and marines with distinctive skills, who are integrated through maritime, riverine, and naval aviation components.

The maritime component consists of surface units such as ocean patrol vessels, coastal patrol vessels, and amphibious landing ships, with specialized teams to control and monitor maritime communication lines to thwart narcotrafficking. Additionally, Coast Guard stations operate with rapid reaction units designed to operate at high speed during maritime interdictions.

Our riverine component includes the 2nd Marine Corps Brigade, based in Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca; and the 4th Marine Corps Brigade, located in the Tumaco municipality, Nariño. The two brigades consist of tactical units, deployed on the Pacific coast, which carry out riverine operations with heavy and light river combat elements, in addition to riverine support boats that cover 273 kilometers of navigable rivers in our jurisdiction.

The naval aviation component has a naval aviation group located in Juanchaco, Valle del Cauca, from where they coordinate operations with air platforms, which are essential for the success of maritime interdiction operations.

Diálogo: How do you handle the concept of interoperability?

Rear Adm. Cubillos: The concept of interoperability is present in all the actions of the 72nd Poseidon Task Force against Narcotrafficking, especially in the coordination with units of the National Army, the Air Force, the National Police, national government agencies and ministries, and the military forces of partner nations.

The operations carried out under this concept are one of the fundamental pillars in the fight against narcotrafficking on the Colombian Pacific coast, in addition to the results achieved through international maritime cooperation agreements, which decisively support the Colombian Navy’s commitment to fulfill its constitutional mission and contribute to addressing the social and public health problems resulting from illegal drug trafficking.

Diálogo: What results have you achieved so far?

Rear Adm. Cubillos: Since its creation in 2012, the 72nd Poseidon Task Force against Narcotrafficking has seized more than 975 tons of cocaine in the Pacific coast of Colombia, and has demonstrated a great deal of effectiveness in executing control operations at sea, as well as efficiency in using maritime, riverine, and aeronaval capabilities.

From January 2021 to December 2021, [authorities] have seized 174 tons of cocaine, 52.5 tons of marijuana, and 2 kilograms of heroin; they destroyed 202 labs for processing the alkaloid and captured 186 people of different nationalities for narcotrafficking. Similarly, [authorities] have seized 122 vessels used in narcotrafficking, 30 semisubmersibles/LPVs, and eradicated 842.7 hectares of illicit crops.