HomeNewsAnalysisColombia Seizes Its First True ‘Narco Sub’
ANALYSIS

Colombia Seizes Its First True ‘Narco Sub’

COLOMBIA / 15 FEB 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

In a display of drug cartels’ increasing technological sophistication, Colombian officials have captured the first submarine capable of smuggling cocaine underwater to Mexico. Drug seizures along Colombia’s Pacific Coast in 2010 were half of those of 2009, as cartels employ their new technology to evade interdiction efforts.

Semi submersible vessels, which sit below the waterline, but have exhausts and ventilation pipes above sea level, have been used in Colombia for many years.  However up till now, no fully-submersible homemade craft, with the capacity to travel to Central America or Mexico, had been found.

This submarine, discovered in the province of Cauca, on the Pacific seaboard, measures 30 meters long and three meters across, and is capable of carrying up to eight tons of cocaine. The craft is also equipped with modern navigation systems, a five meter long persicope, and a fully air-conditioned interior, complete with a small kitchen for its crew.

In a telephone interview with La Opinion, Admiral Hernando Willis of Colombia’s Pacific Joint Command said that the find was a shock to military officials, and represented “a huge technological leap” for drug cartels in the country. ·Because of the complex technology found in the ship, and the amount of fiberglass used in its construction, he estimated that it cost at least two million dollars to build.

Although authorities have seized several smuggling vessels in recent years, all of them - with the exception of last year’s find in Ecuador - have been only  semi-submersibles, meaning that they can still be located by radar or spotted by careful observers.  According to an official press release by Colombia’s Armed Forces General Command (Comando General de las Fuerzas Militares - CGFM), however, this sub has the capacity to dive up to nine feet below sea level.  As a result, it could potentially travel completely underwater to the coast of Mexico, surfacing occasionally only to recharge its batteries, detectable only by Colombian frigates and U.S. vessels with sonar.

Officials say the submarine was seized before its maiden voyage, and was constructed in a makeshift jungle shipyard nearby. Because the region where it was found is a Rastrojos stronghold, the vessel was likely an attempt by the drug gang to send tons of cocaine hydrochloride (HCL) directly to their distributors in Mexico, the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

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