Colombia Begins 2021 with Large Drug Seizures

Colombia Begins 2021 with Large Drug Seizures

By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo
March 05, 2021

The Colombian Military Forces began 2021 with major operations against narcotrafficking. The Navy seized more than 1.5 tons of cocaine on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and the Army found three coca base paste labs in the Amazon region.

On January 10, units of the Colombian Navy’s Cartagena Coast Guard Station seized 1,539 kilograms of cocaine that was on board a merchant ship 9 miles out from Cartagena Bay, with Morocco as the final destination, the Navy said in a statement.

“It all began with an alert call on a ship, where it was reported that there were personnel  that were not part of the crew, but the captain did not know where they were,” Colombian Navy Commander Luis Fernando Lara Cogollo, commander of the Cartagena Coast Guard Station, told Diálogo. “During the inspection, we found five people on board who were not part of the crew. One of them had jumped into the water, and four were hiding.”

Troops of the Colombian Army found three coca base paste labs in Guaviare department, on January 3, 2021. (Photo: Colombian Army)

The containers were inspected through a coordinated effort with the Anti-narcotics Police and the Port Police. “[We] proceeded to open these containers, and we found this amount of [drug] stashed,” Cmdr. Lara explained.

The naval institution told Diálogo that the Cartagena Coast Guard Station had seized 10,257 kg of cocaine and 7 kg of amphetamine and captured 50 people for different crimes in 2020.

Blow to narco-labs

On January 3, troops from the Army’s Fourth Division, 24th Infantry Battalion, located and destroyed three coca base paste labs in El Retorno municipality, Guaviare department, the institution said in a statement.

“Among the material found, [service members] found 30 gallons [113.5 liters] of coca base paste being processed, 1,883 kg of whole coca leaf, [and] 50 gallons [189.2 liters] of gasoline, among other materials used to make cocaine base to then be commercialized abroad,” Colombian Army Major General Antonio María Beltrán Díaz, Fourth Division commander, told the press.

“This unit also managed to locate and destroy three seedbeds with approximately 17,000 coca plants that are likely benefiting the financial structure of the residual organized armed group Estructura Primera, whose leader is alias Gentil Duarte,” Maj. Gen. Beltrán added.

In 2020, the Fourth Division located and destroyed 554 labs for processing coca base and cocaine hydrochloride and seized 573 liters of coca base in process, 2,517 liters of solid chemical precursors, and about 1,109 liters of liquid chemical precursors, the Army told Diálogo. In addition, authorities found 715 seedbeds and eradicated 8,943 hectares of illicit coca crops.

According to the Colombian newspaper El Nuevo Siglo, Colombia ended 2020 with the seizure of 472 tons of cocaine hydrochloride, a 17 percent increase compared to 2019, and 2,527 tons of coca leaf, 9 percent more than in 2019.