Colombia Strikes Narcotrafficking in Territorial Waters

Colombia Strikes Narcotrafficking in Territorial Waters

By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo
March 03, 2017

The Colombian Armed Forces on January 24th delivered two serious blows to narcotraffickers operating in Colombian waters: more than 800 kilos of cocaine were seized in the Pacific, and around half a ton in the Caribbean.

During their attempted escape from authorities near the municipality of Tumaco, on the Colombian Pacific, four Ecuadoreans and a Colombian threw overboard 30 sealed and tied packages of cocaine.

The Rapid Response Unit of the Tumaco Coast Guard Station found the cargo and the men, who were placed under arrest for booking. “The preliminary initial test results were positive for cocaine hydrochloride, with a weight of 833 kilograms. The seized drugs would have gone first to the Central American markets, and then to North America,” Rear Admiral Carlos Gustavo Serrano Álvarez, commander of the Poseidon Anti-Narcotrafficking Task Force told Diálogo.

Coordination and cooperation

The success of the operation can be attributed to collaboration among the different branches of the Colombian military. “A coordination mechanism has been created which involves all the institutions, the Colombian Army, Air Force, Police, and Navy to focus our efforts on the fight against narcotrafficking, starting with the eradication of illegal crops, to the processing of the basic paste, the crystallization of hydrochloride, and the packing and shipment to other countries,” Rear Adm. Serrano stated. “Currently, the records of this joint effort show more than five tons seized in this part of the country.”

This is a strong effort, as underlined by the numbers recorded. “The past year has seen excellent numbers from the Pacific Navy: between the Panamanian and Ecuadorean borders almost 120 tons [of drugs], worth almost $4 billion, were seized. In the past year, as the Ministry of Defense has stated, 369 tons were seized. Here in the Tumaco area, in particular, we recorded almost 23 tons,” he said.

The value provided by cooperation with foreign armed forces is the key. “This fight is significant not only because of what is materially seized but also because of the importance of its focus on our relationships with other countries, such as Ecuador, the United States, and Central American countries, with whom we share timely information that allows rendering of accounts of shipments seized in the Pacific Ocean,” emphasized Rear Adm. Serrano. “Of those 120 tons, a large part is due to this coordination mechanism.”

Almost half a ton of cocaine in the Caribbean

On the same day as the Pacific operation, authorities in the Colombian Caribbean discovered a shipment of 490 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride being transported in a “go fast” boat. The boat, which traveled within seven miles of the coast en route to Panama, was intercepted by units from the Urabá Coast Guard Station, the Caribbean Fleet, and the 16th Marine Corps, under the operational control of the 73rd Anti-Narco Trafficking Task Force “Neptuno”. The boat’s crew was handed over to the attorney general’s office for prosecution.

The arrestees belonged to the Caimán Nuevo indigenous community, based in Necoclí, showing that narcotrafficking networks are poisoning even the ancestral values of local communities.

The 73rd Neptuno, created three years ago by the Colombian Navy, has jurisdiction over the entire Colombian Caribbean. “When we have a situation with [these] characteristics –vessels traveling at a certain time from particular places – we always consider it an opportunity; in this case, the Coast Guard directly [detained] this vessel, and found a quantity of product aboard, which was seized,” Rear Admiral Juan Francisco Herrera Leal, commander of Neptune, told Diálogo.

The operation was yet another task force achievement. “This year we’ve carried out more than six maritime interdiction operations, through which we have impounded a total of almost three tons of cocaine hydrochloride. But we’ve also had success in finding a “parasite,” as we call a device [used to hide drugs] that is installed under the hull of internationally flagged vessels, discovered during a diver inspection at a Colombian Navy checkpoint in the Gulf of Urabá,” Rear Adm. Herrera said.

“With this seizure, the Colombian Navy deprived criminal groups of $16 million in earnings,” reported the Navy’s press secretary in a release.