Two operations demonstrate the efficiency of interoperability in the fight against transnational organized crime.
In late October, the Colombian Navy dealt a strong blow against narcotrafficking in two combined operations with the Peruvian and Ecuadorean navies. The operations started in the south of Colombia on the Putumayo river, which extends more than 1,000 kilometers and marks the border between Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Authorities seized more than a ton of marijuana and cocaine in the operations. They also captured four Colombian nationals and seized two speedboats used to transport the drugs.
“We are perfectly coordinated on the borders with Peru and Ecuador,” Colombian Navy Rear Admiral José Ricardo Hurtado, commander of the Southern Naval Force, told Diálogo. “We conduct joint and combined work with each country’s authorities, so these criminals can’t elude us anymore. If they go to the Ecuadorean side, troops will be there; and if they come to the Colombian side, we expect them, so it gets more and more difficult for them.”
By the river
According to the Colombian Navy, the first riverine operation was conducted on the third week of October, in a section of the Putumayo river about 24 kilometers northeast of the Peruvian town of Soplín Vargas. The operation was carried out in coordination with Peru, which deployed units of the Peruvian Navy’s riverine gunboat BAP Castilla, the 1st Amazon Marine Corps Battalion, and the National Police. Authorities identified a house on the river bank where three people prepared a drug shipment.
“There were speedboats loaded with marijuana,” Colombian Marine Colonel Carlos Andrés Téllez, commander of the 3rd Marine Riverine Brigade, told Diálogo. “We supported the Peruvian Navy with logistics, transport, and information. They arrived and found two speedboats with false bottoms and a metal parasitic device.”
The parasitic device contained 400 kilograms of genetically modified marijuana, a variety known as creepy, packed in waterproof bags. Near the house, the deployed forces found another 900 kg of drugs.
The marijuana seized is estimated to be worth about $5 million in the international market. In addition to the drugs, authorities arrested three Colombian nationals and seized two speedboats, the parasitic device, and weapons.
According to the Colombian Navy, the drugs belonged to alias Sinaloa, leader of Front 48, a dissident group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that dominates narcotrafficking in Putumayo. The drugs that came from the Colombian municipality of Puerto Leguízamo, Putumayo, were destined for the Brazilian Amazon.
A few days after the operation in Peru, units of the Colombian Navy provided support to their Ecuadorean counterparts in an operation that took them from the Putumayo region to the port city of Guayaquil, in the Pacific coast of Ecuador. The information exchange made it possible to monitor drugs transported from southern Colombia to Ecuador, destined for Europe.
“We know there’s a transnational narcotrafficking ring that transports drugs through international airports to Europe,” said Rear Adm. Hurtado. “Based on this, many lessons were passed down to our Ecuadorean counterparts, such as the use and training of canines that can detect even the slightest trace of drugs. These can be implemented at immigration checkpoints to neutralize criminal action.”
With information from the Colombian Navy, the Ecuadorean Navy, together with the Ecuadorean National Police and the Office of the Attorney General, managed to capture a Colombian national in Guayaquil’s José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport. The criminal attempted to carry more than 30 kg of cocaine hydrochloride to southern Europe.
The operations are the result of sustained information exchanges between the neighboring navies. Together, the naval units of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru spearhead the fight against drugs in the hard-to-reach jungle they share in the Amazon region of Putumayo, which criminals use to conduct their illegal activities.
“We have to keep up with coordinated work and maintain the bonds of friendship and cooperation among our countries,” said Col. Téllez. “We have to keep up the coordinated fight with the different navies, the police, and the attorney general offices supporting each other to be able to create these strategies that enable us to counter narcotrafficking forcefully.”