Colombia: Navy Breaks Up Semi-Submersibles Building Operation

By Dialogo
December 04, 2008

Colombia Ministry of Defense The Colombian Navy and the Administrative Department of Security [DAS] delivered a hard blow to drug trafficking by locating and destroying a makeshift workshop where a series of semi-submersible craft were built for drug trafficking service. Simultaneous to this operation, four captures were carried out in different parts of the country, which are directly connected with the gang that constructed and distributed narcotics using this type of craft. The workshop facility, which took up about half a hectare of ground, was located amid inlets in the Sanquianga natural park, near the municipality of Mosquera, Narino. There, construction of two semi-submersible craft was under way, one of them 90% complete, while the other was having its fiberglass work finished. The craft measured 17 meters long and 5 meters wide [beam]. The facility included a camp structure for 40 people, warehouses, machinery, and equipment used to construct these craft. It is estimated that each fully equipped submersible could cost between 1.5 billion and 2 billion pesos [approximately $648,228 and $864,304], with a capacity to carry between 8 and 10 tons each trip. The approximate value of the confiscated and destroyed material is 4 billion pesos [approximately $1.7286 million] (an average of $1.8 million), which prevented the distribution of close to 20 tons of drugs thanks to the authorities' effective action. The largest drug distribution gang using semi-submersible craft was disbanded: This is the largest organization that builds semi-submersible craft to transport drugs from the coasts of Upper Guajira and the Pacific coast of Narino Department to Central America, the United States, and Europe. Those captured are Enrique Tammer Portocarrero, head of the organization, captured in the city of Cali; Francisco Estupinan, alias "Maestro Villa," captured in Buenaventura, in charge of building these craft. Likewise, captured in Barranquilla and Maicao were Carlos Alberto Guerra Zapata and Leonel Gonzalez Iguaran. The latter is responsible for several shipments from the Caribbean coast using these types of craft, including the one seized on 5 August 2007 in the area between Nazareth and Puerto Estrella in Upper Guajira, at the foot of the La Macuira mountain range. The DAS seized 74 million pesos [approximately $31,993] in cash, as well as a public service vehicle with $200,000. The three craft found in November were located in the departments of Narino and Valle del Cauca. The former, in the general area of Cape Manglares, which was ready to begin its voyage to Central America. During that operation a cache was seized with 1,600 kg of cocaine ready to be shipped on the craft. The second semi-submersible of the month was confiscated in the general area of the Patia River, concealed among the area's heavy vegetation, and the third was located in the "Aguacate" inlet, in the rural area of the municipality of Buenaventura. With these two new semi-submersible craft the number of those detected, neutralized, and destroyed amount to 27 since 22 May 1993, the date when the first seizure took place on the island of Providencia. In view of this cocaine transportation modality used by drug traffickers in association with the FARC, control work has been stepped up on land, sea, and rivers, preventing the mobilization of large amounts of the alkaloid from collection centers on the Colombian coasts to Central American countries, the United States, and Europe.