Police have seized half a ton of cocaine allegedly belonging to the Urabeños from a port in Colombia's Caribbean island of San Andres, in a find which may indicate the island's growing importance as a transshipment point.
According to police, three traffickers were arrested attempting to transport the 500 kilo load in a hidden compartment in a speedboat. Officials said the drugs -- with an estimated value of $10 million -- had likely been stored in a local residence and were destined for Central America and the United States, reported El Espectador.
In September, authorities recovered a 1.4 ton cocaine haul -- also attributed to the Urabeños -- aboard a cargo ship coming from Cartagena, when it docked in San Andres, reported Caracol.
InSight Crime Analysis
San Andres has historically been a hub for contraband products such as liquor and cigarettes, as well as a transshipment point for drugs headed to Central America via go-fast boat. The potential importance of the island to drug traffickers increased following an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling last year in a territorial dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia, which gave swathes of maritime territory to Nicaragua.
The ruling raised concerns that drug trafficking through the region could increase following the withdrawal of the relatively strong Colombian Navy from the territory newly allocated to Nicaragua. These same concerns were reflected in recent calls from the Nicaraguan military for international assistance in acquiring more boats for its navy.
SEE ALSO: Urabeños News and Profile
Last October it was reported that the Urabeños were fighting for control of San Andres against rival groups the Rastrojos and the Paisas, and the recent seizures indicate the group has solidified its position in this key region. With the weakening of the Rastrojos, the Urabeños have become Colombia's principal drug trafficking organization, and are major suppliers for Mexican groups including the Zetas.
The use of the Caribbean as a drug trafficking route has increased sharply in the past year, with 14 percent of US-bound cocaine trafficked through the region in the first half of 2013, and maritime routes have proved particularly difficult to monitor.