Colombian police have seized 1.5 tons of cocaine in Cartagena, the single biggest haul in a year that has broken records for seizures in Colombia but cast doubt on cocaine production estimates.
Anti-narcotics police discovered the shipment in loading machinery at the Caribbean city's port. They believe Colombian neo-paramilitary group the Urabeños were planning to ship the product on to associates in the Mexico's Zetas cartel via Honduras, reported Vanguardia.
National police director General Jose Roberto Leon Riaño told the media that the seizure was the police's biggest haul in a year that saw Colombian authorities seize more cocaine than in any previous year.
The shipment takes seizures of cocaine hydrochloride to 185 tons for 2012, Leon Riaño told El Tiempo. In addition to this, police seized 66 tons of coca paste – equivalent to 56 tons of hydrochloride at 86% purity - bringing the estimated total to 241 tons.
Previously, the largest amount of cocaine seized in Colombia in one year came in 2009 when authorities captured 203 tons, according to El Tiempo.
InSight Crime Analysis
The haul of 241 tons of cocaine in one year means the Colombian authorities have seized nearly 70% of cocaine produced in the country, if the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) production estimates for 2011 are to be believed.
While this may seem unlikely, it is certainly a more realistic prospect than if the US Office of National Drug Control Police (ONDCP) estimates are taken at face value – which would mean Colombia has seized 46 tons more than it produced last year.
Even working with the higher estimate and taking into account the increase in production in Peru and Bolivia (according to estimates from the same bodies), such a high seizure rate in a leading producer country would undoubtedly cause a drastic spike in prices and changes in consumption patterns.
Such dramatic changes have not been recorded. Instead, the work by Colombian law enforcement again highlights how production estimates almost certainly remain some distance from the actual quantity of cocaine being produced in Colombia.