Drug trafficking flight routes

Aerial surveys by the US Military’s Southern Command show that drug traffickers are shifting back to Caribbean sea routes in response to pressure on trafficking corridors running through the Central American isthmus.

Drug networks have also adopted new tactics to evade detection, officials at the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF-S) told the Guatemalan news organization Siglo21. Traffickers now slow their go-fast boats, whose high speeds once made them easy to spot, to the pace of normal fishing boats and sometimes conceal them amid a fleet of up to 20 other vessels.

According to Siglo21, the US State Department says the number of maritime trafficking events occurring on the Caribbean side of the Central American isthmus numbered 541 in 2011, compared to the Pacific Ocean’s 405 trafficking-related incidents, highlighting the Caribbean’s renewed importance to drug traffickers.

Furthermore, officials have observed a marked shift in drug flights. In 2009, many flew directly from South America to Honduras. In the last two years, however, flights have increasingly gone via Caribbean islands (see image above), with shipments later sent to the isthmus.

InSight Crime Analysis

Leaders from Caribbean states warned the US in 2010 that drug traffickers were increasingly turning to the Caribbean as a route -- one favored during the 1980s when some 80 percent of US-bound cocaine moved through the region -- due to pressure on overland routes through Central America. The pressure has increased this year through Operation Martillo, a US-led counternarcotics strategy in Central America that began in January.

The operation's first phase focused on stemming sea trafficking routes in the Honduran Gulf, and has since shifted to the southwest of Guatemala where some 170 US marines were recently deployed. In June, the agency reported to the US House Committee on Homeland Security that cocaine flow in most parts of Central America had decreased. Despite this success, there was a noticeable a spike in boats leaving from Colombia’s Pacific coast, constituting a 55 percent rise in cocaine trafficking in the area, according to the report.

The new maritime routes have not yet supplanted overland trafficking, DEA administrator Michele Leonhart said in a statement (see pdf here) before the US House of Representatives subcommittee on crime, terrorism, and homeland security in June. With pressure set to continue on trafficking corridors in Central America, though, it is likely the Caribbean will be increasingly utilized for drug shipments.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

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. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...