Salvadoran anti-narcotics police foil drug trafficking schemes
By Dialogo September 30, 2014
Agents with the Antinarcotics Division (DAN) of the National Civil Police (PNC) are foiling a wide array of drug smuggling schemes - discovering illicit substances hidden in food, shipments of clothing, and even hollowed-out furniture.
Despite their efforts to sneak contraband past authorities, drug traffickers are no match for the improved training, data collection and intelligence gathering of the Salvadoran police.
For instance, on August 9, Mexican national Olzubek Ramírez, 21, found himself under arrest after he de-boarded a plane at Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport. He entered the country on a commercial flight from Quito, Ecuador, with final destination in Guatemala. And he was transporting a small, rectangular-shaped wooden box adorned by a hand-carved depiction of Ecuador’s coat of arms.
A drug-sniffing police dog honed in on the box, indicating the presence of drugs; and when police placed the box through a scanner, they discovered that it was hollowed-out and filled with packets of cocaine. Police arrested Ramírez and confiscated the cocaine, which was worth (USD) $223,000 on the local market.
The seizure is just one of many the DAN has accomplished in 2014. Between January and June, the DAN seized more than 700 kilos of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and crack. They also confiscated $400,000 in cash, 53 vehicles, and 65 firearms, and arrested 1,983 suspects.
Stopping land, sea, and air drug trafficking routes
“Thanks to our investigators’ experience and data analysis at the border, we have been able to detect various forms of disguising drugs that can hardly be believed,” said DAN Chief Marco Tulio Lima. “Drug traffickers are using crab shells, clothes, dried fish, cans of Salvadoran products, and many other items to attempt to get drugs through.”
To help disrupt drug trafficking routes, the DAN has created a database listing the tactics and characteristics of drug traffickers. By merging or cross-referencing this intelligence, DAN investigators can create profiles of drug smuggling suspects.
One red flag for investigators comes when a traveler purchases a ticked by a credit card in someone else’s name. Last-minute cancellations and itinerary changes also trigger suspicion, and police are also on the alert for dubious explanations for trips.
These sorts of indicators led police to arrest Mexican Alfredo Vásquez, 43, who was traveling with 10 oil paintings. He flew from Ecuador to Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero international airport on August 19.
“He repeatedly told the investigators with great precision that he was an art dealer and that he bought the paintings for (USD) $20 and resold them for a few dollars more,” said DAN Chief of Operations Jaime Perla. “But not even a set of oil brushes is worth that little, much less a painting.”
Police put the paintings through an Ion Scan, a device which detects a wide array of drugs. Based in part on the results of the scan, police determined the paintings were soaked in heroin. Police arrested Vásquez and confiscated the paintings.
Ramírez and Vásquez are both charged with of illegal trading, trafficking, and storage of drugs. If a judge finds them guilty, each suspect faces a sentence of between five years in prison and life in prison. The DAN is investigating to establish the drug trafficking groups the two suspects were working for.
Training and international cooperation
Building on the successes of the Ramírez and Vásquez arrests, Salvadoran police are continually training to learn the latest techniques in drug interdiction.
For example, on July 21, the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador taught a course on “Airport Interdiction” to teach the best ways to detect and intercept drugs and other illicit items at airport ramps, loading areas and terminals. The course covered how to analyze deceptive conduct and concealment techniques used by drug smugglers. Law enforcement officials from Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador participated in the workshop.
Dear author of this article, I write to inform you that there is no life sentence in El Salvador. I like it Dear author, I would like to inform you that there is no life sentence punishment in El Salvador for any crime at all. I wish it were so for everyone, even diplomats, military members, etc. etc. I liked it all a lot. *The images of Don Bosco". What news, what an excellent seizure, who do that want to spoon feed. Question; how much coca has gone through Central America this week? How much does a country miss out on in terms of taxes? Who carried those drugs? What means of transportation are used now? Is the Central American corridor necessary? Who are helping them in the governments? That's what we want, a NA law, that punishes use, that's the beginning, but USE has a minimum sentence, imagine that. THOSE WHO BUY THE DRUGS, the sentence is so small that they don't even go to jail. AND THE STATES SPEND MILLIONS of dollars on drug addicts, etc I like it excellent