Police display 7 ton cocaine haul in Cartagena

The proportion of drugs trafficked through the Caribbean has more than tripled in the space of five years, according to US officials, adding weight to the persistent warnings that traffickers are seeking new routes as a result of security forces pressure in Central America and Mexico

The head of the Caribbean division of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Vito Salvatore Guarino, told Spain's El Pais that in the last three to five years the amount of cocaine passing through the Caribbean en route to the United States has risen from 5 percent of the total to 16 percent of the total. According to Guarino, in absolute terms, he estimates traffickers currently ship 90-100 tons through the region, versus close to 70 tons in prior years.  

From October 2012 to October 2013, anti-narcotics forces seized 28 tons of drugs being moved through the region and arrested over 1,500 people on drug charges. This has continued to rise since then, with a 2 percent increase in the proportion of drugs moving through the region during the first trimester of the 2014 fiscal year.

The most commonly used routes depart from the port of Cartagena, before moving on to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, according to Guarino. Jamaica, already a major marijuana producer country, has also emerged as a major cocaine transhipment point. 

InSight Crime Analysis

In the three years since Caribbean leaders warned the US of an increase in drug trafficking through the region, it has become increasingly apparent that traffickers are looking to revive the Caribbean cocaine corridors popular in the 1980s, when 75 percent of drugs seized in transit to the United States were interdicted along these routes.  

At least part of the increased activity along the Caribbean routes is a result of the security forces crackdown in Mexico and Central America, which themselves became popular due to anti-narcotics operations in the Caribbean, highlighting how trafficking routes migrate to follow the path of least resistance.

The use of Caribbean ports and transit points has been underscored by recent seizures. In just the last two weeks, two record breaking shipments of liquid cocaine and cocaine were seized by Colombian authorities at the port of Cartagena, one a seven ton load destined for the Netherlands, the other a record 2.8 ton haul of liquefied cocaine, which was headed for Guatemala.

In addition, the US Coast Guard recently unloaded 3.3 tons of cocaine at a base in Miami Beach following two separate drug interdictions in the Caribbean, one of which took place just south of Jamaica, the other in the south west Caribbean sea.

However, despite the seizures and the warnings of regional officials, the DEA's figures show how the Caribbean remains some distance from taking over as the principal route linking the Andean cocaine production countries to the United States. Authorities believe that about 350 tons of cocaine still moves through the Isthmus. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...