Large quantities of cocaine are reportedly arriving to Puerto Rico via submarines originating from Venezuela, highlighting the evolving tactics used by drug traffickers and the increasing importance of the US territory as a cocaine transit point.
During a budget review of a counter-narcotics plan enacted in January, government representative Antonio Soto said that the strategy failed to do enough to intercept drugs arriving in submarines coming from Venezuela. Soto also noted that the plan -- known as "Coastal Shield" -- does not monitor the area of the Vieques and Culebra islands, off the coast of Puerto Rico, even though submarines use this area as a point of entry, according to the head of Puerto Rico's National Guard, Juan Medina Lamela.
Officials say that drug traffickers use two types of submarines: one that travels in deep waters and another one that moves closer to the surface.
The Coastal Shield anti-narcotics strategy has included the deployment of the National Guard along the coast, and the implementation of a radar system aimed at better monitoring aerial trafficking.
InSight Crime Analysis
Pressure on the US-Mexico border has seen Puerto Rico become an increasingly important transit point for US-bound cocaine. This reflects a general trend in which drug trafficking overall appears to be increasing in the Caribbean, as observed by the US military. Puerto Rico's status as a US territory makes it a particularly attractive destination, as it increases the ease with which drugs can subsequently reach the US mainland.
In reaction to pressure from law enforcement, drug trafficking organizations have shown an immense capacity to adapt, and have frequently changed their routes, tactics, and modes of transportation. Officials have reported that Caribbean traffickers now slow their go-fast boats to the speed of fishing boats to make them harder to detect. Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, a crackdown on traffickers moving drug shipments by air has resulted in the increased use of maritime routes to move drugs. If drug trafficking organizations have indeed become reliant on submarines and semi-submersibles to transport product to Puerto Rico, they most likely view this method of transportation as the new and most effective way to avoid attention from authorities.