HomeNewsBrief'Colombia Narcos Prefer Trafficking Coca Base, Not Cocaine'
BRIEF

'Colombia Narcos Prefer Trafficking Coca Base, Not Cocaine'

COCA / 4 FEB 2015 BY LOREN RIESENFELD AND ELYSSA PACHICO EN

Smuggling coca base from Colombia to Central American countries like Honduras -- rather than powder cocaine -- may now be traffickers' preferred method of moving the drug northwards, highlighting the changing economics of the region's drug trade.

According to a report by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, Colombian anti-drug police believe that the country's drug trafficking organizations see trafficking coca as a better investment than smuggling cocaine hydrochloride. The newspaper also reported that traffickers are now referring to coca base as "re-oxidized coca," a reference to a step in the cocaine-making process in which chemicals like potassium permanganate are added to the base, in order to further purify it.

This preference for trafficking coca base was recently made evident in Honduras, where authorities seized a nearly 650 kilo shipment of base that originated in Colombia. 

Additionally, Colombian anti-drug police now say that at least two cocaine laboratories found in Honduras were built with Colombian equipment and run by Colombian traffickers, El Tiempo reported. Like other Central American countries, Honduras was once typically used as a transit nation for moving cocaine northwards, not for actually producing it. But in 2011, the country discovered its first cocaine lab -- an implication that rather than moving powder cocaine through the country, smugglers are bringing in coca base, and processing it into cocaine on Honduran ground. 

InSight Crime Analysis

There have been few media reports thus far on seizures of "re-oxidized" coca base -- there was one reported seizure of about 260 kilograms in Panama in April 2014. 

But it would make economic sense, if Colombian traffickers are indeed leaning towards trafficking coca base to Central America, and then "re-oxidizing" it with potassium permanganate in countries like Honduras. As coca base is cheaper to produce and to transport, the smugglers lose less money if their shipment is intercepted. As one unnamed Colombian police official told El Tiempo, "The narcos think that if they lose coca base, there's a smaller loss, almost half the value [of refined cocaine]."

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

Another reason why Colombian traffickers might prefer to smuggle coca base is that precursor chemicals like potassium permanganate have greater restrictions in Colombia than in Central America. According to the US State Department, Mexico does not regulate the import or export of several important precursors, including potassium permanganate.

There is one downside to this new business model for the Colombian traffickers. If the Colombian are processing coca base in Central America, then selling it on to Central American buyers -- most likely the Mexican cartels -- this means that it is the Mexicans who are profiting the most from actually moving the cocaine into the US and selling it on. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

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.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HONDURAS / 12 NOV 2010

Armed men stormed a military-protected hangar at a major airport in San Pedro Sula, stole a small airplane…

COLOMBIA / 29 DEC 2010

With the death of Pedro Guerrero Castillo, alias "Cuchillo," and the arrest of his number two, Harold…

COLOMBIA / 23 OCT 2012

With the demobilization of 17 fighters in Valle del Cauca and hundreds more possibly to surrender, there are indications that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.