Uruguayan Navy seizes 1.4 tons of cocaine from a fishing boat

Uruguayan Navy seizes 1.4 tons of cocaine from a fishing boat

By Dialogo
January 14, 2014

The Uruguayan Navy recently seized 1.4 tons of cocaine and captured nine suspects during a security initiative known as “Burned Shark.” Uruguayan authorities announced the successful security operation on Dec. 22, 2013. It was the largest drug seizure ever by the Navy.
The Navy seized the drugs from the Panamanian-flagged fishing vessel named “Perbes.”
The ship was on its way to Europe, authorities said. Navy investigators arrested six Colombians and three Nicaraguans. The ship’s owner was among the suspects, authorities said.
The detainees had a hearing before Judge Adriana De Los Santos, who handles organized crime cases. The judge took statements from the suspects and ordered that they continue to be held in custody.

Intelligence led to seizure and arrests

In the weeks leading to the seizure and the arrests, the Division of Investigation and Narcotics of the National Naval Prefecture (DIVIN) gathered intelligence that the boat’s crew members were using welding equipment to create secret compartments to conceal cocaine, authorities said.
Naval investigators presented the evidence to Judge De Los Santos, who approved a search warrant, officials said.

Cocaine found in hidden compartments

Armed with the search warrant, naval investigators boarded the vessel and found the cocaine hidden beneath a wooden floor. The cocaine was stored in the lower half of the boat, inside two compartments underneath a refrigerating unit.
The seizure of the cocaine was a team effort that was made possible by the work of the DIVIN, according to Gastón Jaunsolo, a spokesman for the Navy.
"It was fine intelligence work. The seizure was the end result of a lot of hard, work, it was a commendable job,” Jaunsolo said.
The operation marked “the largest seizure of cocaine made in the Navy's history.” Most large seizures by the Navy reached into the hundreds of kilos, Jaunsolo said.

Uruguay fights drug trafficking

Operation Burning Shark is part of a broad effort by the Uruguayan government to crack down on drug trafficking. With increasing frequency, organized crime groups are using Uruguay as a transshipment point, transporting cocaine and other drugs through the country and eventually to Mexico, the United States, or Europe.
Drug traffickers from Colombia and Ecuador and criminal gangs from Central America are fighting for control of drug trafficking routes in the Southern Cone, the southern tip of Latin America which includes Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, and part of Brazil.

Technology used to capture boat transporting cocaine

In October 2103, the Ecuadorean Navy, in cooperation with the National Police, used advanced technology to find a boat that was transporting a high amount of cocaine.
The Unit Against Organized Crime (ULCO) of the National Police alerted the Navy of the presence of a Panamanian-flagged vessel which was suspected of transporting drugs off the Ecuadorean coast. The Navy sent several drones into the air to track the boat.
The drones located the boat, named “Doria,” about 130 nautical miles southwest of the port of Manta. The Coast Guard intercepted the boat. Coast Guard authorities boarded the boat and found nearly 800 kilograms of cocaine on the vessel, Coast Guard authorities detained the Doria’s five-person crew. Two of the crew members were from Colombia, one is Nicaraguan, one is Panamanian, and one is from the United States, authorities said.

Colombian organized crime groups active in the region

Drug traffickers from Colombia and Ecuador and criminal gangs from Central America are fighting for control of drug trafficking routes in the Southern Cone, the southern tip of Latin America which includes Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, and part of Brazil.
In particular, Colombian drug traffickers are active in the Southern Cone and throughout Latin America.
For example, the drug trafficking organization led by Colombian organized crime kingpin Diego Fernando Murillo, who is known as “Don Berna,” has established operations in recent years in Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, according to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
In Argentina, some members of Don Berna’s family live in luxury condominiums and ride polo ponies. Members of Don Berna’s organization have established cocaine processing laboratories in Bolivia and Ecuador, according to published reports.
As a young man, Don Berna was a member of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), an anti-government guerilla group. Don Berna left the EPL in the 1980s and joined the Galeano organized crime gropu in Medellin. The group was affiliated with the Medellin Cartel, led by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.
In the early 1990s, Escobar ordered the killings of several EPL leaders who he believed were stealing from him. Don Berna formed an organized crime group, the People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar (PEPES) to fight back against the Medellin Cartel. Security forces killed Escobar in 1993.
Don Berna filled the power vacuum left by Escobar and eventually became leader of the Oficina de Envigado, an organized crime group formed by former members of the Medellin Cartel.

The fall of Don Berna In 2005,

Don Berna surrendered to authorities. In 2008, authorities extradited him to the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. In June 2008, he pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to conspiring to import tons of cocaine into the U.S.
A judge sentenced Don Berna to 31 years in prison.

Cooperation against drug trafficking

Countries throughout Latin America are cooperating with each other and with U.S. security forces in the battle against organized crime.
For example, in November 2013, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met in the Colombian city of Ipiales to discuss common security concerns and other issues. The two presidents agreed to strengthen ties in the battle against drug traffickers and other organized crime groups. The two countries share a border that is 730 kilometers long.
Also in November 2013, Correa and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala signed two security agreements, strengthening cooperation between their two countries in the fight against organized crime..

Drugs hurt young people

The drug trade not only creates violence, it harms young people, said Uruguayan Senator Alfredo Solari, a medical doctor who is also president of the Senate’s health commission.
Young people who take drugs do not do as well in school as young people who do not take drugs, Solari said.
“Our country has a serious problem with the poor performance of its education system, particularly secondary education (12 to 18 years-old),” Solari said. “A third of those entering secondary education do not complete the first three years. 102, 000 Uruguayans between 15 and 29 years neither study nor work. These failures have many causes but the abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs during childhood and adolescence are key culprits.”
In testimony before the health commission, school authorities said drug use one of the main reasons many students do not perform well in school.