HomeNewsBriefBusiness as Usual Following Caribbean Cocaine Network Bust?
BRIEF

Business as Usual Following Caribbean Cocaine Network Bust?

CARIBBEAN / 19 JUL 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

The capture of 19 people for trafficking cocaine through the Caribbean archipelago of San Andrés reveals how Colombia’s criminal groups used — and will continue to use — this tourist hotspot as a strategic operational center.

A joint US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Colombian National Police operation saw the arrest of 19 alleged members of the Urabeños criminal organization in San Andrés, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Barranquilla, HSB Noticias reported.

Investigations revealed the network operated by moving cocaine from the Colombian departments of Norte de Santander and César by land to the Caribbean ports of Cartagena, Barranquilla, and the northernmost part of La Guajira department, El Espectador reported.

From there, the drugs would be smuggled by go-fast boat to the San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina archipelago — a Caribbean department 720 kilometers from the Colombian mainland and 110 kilometers from Nicaragua. Once on Providencia island, the traffickers would tie the drug cargo to small buoys and submerge it in mangroves and streams, hiring islanders disguised as fishermen to safeguard the cocaine. The cocaine would later be shipped on to Central America and finally to the United States or Europe, RCN Radio reported.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of the Caribbean

Alias “Joselito” — the leader of the organization — was arrested in Atlántico department, according to HSB Noticias. One female Costa Rican national and eight natives of San Andrés island were also among those detained. Local operatives reportedly used the creole language of the islands to avoid being detected by authorities.

Investigations into the network began in 2013, when a DEA source provided a list of phone numbers belonging to alleged drug traffickers. The list was shared with Colombia’s investigative police (Dirección de Investigación Criminal e INTERPOL – DIJIN), which then began intercepting the suspects’ phone calls.

Authorities believe that over the course of the investigation six drug trafficking operations took place, of which four shipments amounting to 2 metric tons in total were intercepted by Colombian or US security forces. Nonetheless, the network successfully shipped around 4 metric tons to their destination.

An investigator told El Espectador that payment for transporting drugs was around $12,000 ($35 million Colombian pesos) for the boat captain, while the crew earned between $3,400 and $4,100 ($10 to $12 million Colombian pesos).

InSight Crime Analysis

These arrests are further proof of a criminal dynamic that has been identified in San Andrés for some time, but they are unlikely to significantly disrupt illegal criminal activity on the islands.

San Andrés has historically been used as a transit point and operational base for pirates, contraband smugglers and, most recently, drug traffickers. Among the archipelago’s main assets are its inhabitants — given their expertise at navigating the surrounding rocky seas, locals are often contracted to transport drug loads. San Andrés’ proximity to Central America also makes it an ideal stopover point in traffickers’ journey north.

The Urabeños have been strategically placed in San Andrés since at least 2010. Following a violent struggle for control of trafficking in the area with the Rastrojos — another neo-paramilitary drug trafficking group, which are referred to as “BACRIM” — the Urabeños gained predominance.

SEE ALSO: Urabeños News and Profile

And it will not be easy to loosen their foothold on the islands. While similar big busts have been made in the past — including the recent prosecution of 17 Urabeños traffickers, mostly islanders — InSight Crime field research during July 2016 found that drugs continue to flow through the archipelago with relative ease.

Facilitating this dynamic is pervasive police corruption, as well as the inextricable relationship between trafficking activities and the islands’ tight-knit local community. Hundreds of locals — from a population of around 77,000 — are thought to be involved in the drug trade.

The rank and origin of those detained also suggests the arrests will not significantly impact the Urabeños’ island operations. HSB Noticias reports most of the suspects were involved in transport and logistics and that a large number were locals, whereas it is believed the Urabeños’ top operatives hail from mainland Colombia.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

BRAZIL / 17 JUN 2015

Fourteen names appeared in the indictment that accompanied the dramatic downfall of the heads of global football. All fourteen were…

COLOMBIA / 13 SEP 2011

An attention-grabbing report by an Internet security company plays with figures to declare that cyber crime is bigger than drug…

CARIBBEAN / 19 JUL 2012

A leading opposition politician in Puerto Rico has called for the imposition of a state of emergency, citing rising crime…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…