Chile Undertakes Joint Counter-Narcotics Operation

Chile Undertakes Joint Counter-Narcotics Operation

By Francisco Pereira/Diálogo
October 04, 2016

A new joint operation between the Navy, the Investigations Police (PDI per its Spanish acronym) and the Anti-Narcotics Brigade of Chile’s Underwater Operations Team, the National Customs Service, and the Carabineros took place at the Tres Puentes Port Terminal in Punta Arenas – one of the most important in the country, on August 25th. The goal was to detect the transport and trafficking of illicit substances in domestic and foreign vessels. With the assistance of drug and other banned substance-sniffing dogs, each department's specialized agents examined multiple vehicles and equipment on board the Ferry Yaghan cargo ship, traveling to Puerto Williams. Anti-drugs legislation The country has very strict anti-drug laws that prohibit illegal substances from passing through its ports. Drug Law No. 20,000 is part of the National Public Safety Plan to intensify joint actions among various institutional bodies to prevent and control drug-related crimes. Drug trafficking is the biggest problem at the ports, requiring greater vigilance on sea and upon arrival at the pier. The vessels are used by drug traffickers to transport drugs without the knowledge of the owners or the crew. When drugs are discovered, the vessels are removed from maritime service and appropriate legal punishment is imposed, preventing them from returning to work for a period of time determined by law. As part of its duties, domestic legislation adopted the development of security studies on international trade ports, which has turned into a security plan approved by the Maritime Administration. The main port facilities have modern systems to control access to people, integrated closed-circuit television surveillance systems, and vehicle access control. The port's captain, Lieutenant Junior Grade Rafael Quijada Córdoba, noted that "joint oversight responds to a concern on the part of the authorities and the provincial governments regarding the increase in drug trafficking in the city of Puerto Williams, in this specific case, and the rest of the country's ports." He added that "coordinated efforts among distinct bodies not only seek to be able to control illegal substances, but also serves to dissuade, so that the community is made aware that these random inspections are being done in order to identify and stop this crime, not just in the city, but in the entire Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic region." Prevention strategies Prevention strategies include a periodic examination of suspicious foreign and domestic vessels’ hulls that meet certain characteristics or profiles based on the police's criminal information with the goal of detecting fake panels in the ships' structures. This technique is used by other countries in the region too, such as Peru and Ecuador, as it is the most commonly employed method by criminal organizations in Latin American ports. “This is preventive work, related to a joint strategy that the PDI is implementing in the country, which consists of examining suspicious objects in vessels that play an important role in national development and that may end up at Chilean ports, where criminal organizations remove and use them,” said Commissioner Luis Díaz Valencia, head of the San Antonio PDI Anti-Narcotics Brigade. “This strategy couldn't be implemented if it didn't have the support of the Maritime Governance and the Chilean Navy," he noted. The elements considered suspicious by the operation are objects that may be coupled to parts on the bottom of the boat, a practice that is common in various international ports. At ports that don't have a structure for inspections, criminals go under water and install elements in the hulls that aren't part of their original structure. Inside these elements are illegal substances such as cocaine, the most commonly trafficked drug due to its high price. Maritime drug trafficking has increased worldwide, requiring ever increasingly integrated and coordinated efforts by the various security agencies, not only in Chilean ports but throughout the international community as well. For Diaz, it is important “to work in a coordinated manner in all phases of the investigation.”
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