HomeNewsBriefPacific Drug Routes From South America More Popular Than Atlantic
BRIEF

Pacific Drug Routes From South America More Popular Than Atlantic

COCA / 27 FEB 2019 BY JUAN DIEGO POSADA EN

With a well-known route through the Southern Cone decimated and authorities combing the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, drug traffickers are turning to the Pacific Ocean to ship their illicit wares to North America.

According to Mexican government reports, between January 2018 and February 2019, the Mexican navy seized 10.7 metric tons of cocaine, almost two-thirds of the total seized in the previous six years. While there have been regular seizures on both coasts, the Pacific seems to be gaining in popularity among drug traffickers as they move their products north.

Trafficking routes to Caribbean nations are still effective for reaching European and North American markets. However, the crisis in Venezuela is affecting its neighboring countries and could be placing the coasts and ports of South America’s northeast under the microscope, as well as any vessel departing from them.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

Organized crime groups could be looking to the Pacific to avoid the noise in the Caribbean, even though moving operations to the west brings its own set of risks.

Groups operating in Colombia, for example, have increased their illicit crop farming in the country’s coastal areas along the Pacific. Between 2014 and 2017, the departments of Cauca and Nariño tripled their number of coca crops. Such shifts have unleashed a domino effect on both national and international criminal structures as they maneuver to better position themselves.

InSight Crime Analysis

This shift in drug trafficking routes could be eliciting changes both in the modus operandi of organized crime groups throughout Latin America and in the amount of traffic on what can be called the Pacific drug trafficking highway.

At the same time, anti-narcotics authorities are also stepping up their efforts in the northern regions of South America.

Traffickers have taken to sending some of their shipments up the Pacific with escorts -- often from the cartels they do business with -- to protect them from “tumbadores,” people who rob drug traffickers of their goods. The escorts have even been used to distract authorities when they pursue illegal shipments.

High-tech elements are also increasingly used along the Pacific route. Drug traffickers, for a few years, have relied on buoys with satellite location devices on them, which allows for more maneuverability. One group leaves the drugs out at sea with the buoy switched on, and the frequency is shared with their partners who can pick up the drugs at their convenience. This lessens the risk of a patrol stumbling unto them.

And even if authorities develop successful countermeasures against the new strategies employed by drug traffickers, they still must contend with ongoing corruption. A long-time constant in the international trafficking landscape, corruption has facilitated maritime trafficking for years and is likely at least partly to blame for its 190 percent increase since 2014.

International authorities are increasing efforts to monitor the Pacific and prevent the arrival of cocaine to northern shores. However, Central America continues to be a chink in the armor, not only due to its well-known struggles with corruption, but also because it lacks the resources necessary to keep up with new shipping methods. For now, only Mexico and the United States seem to be keeping up with the dynamic situation, but their efforts alone may not be enough.

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

MEXICO / 15 NOV 2012

The United States and Mexico have signed an agreement aimed at preventing the cross-border trafficking of stolen cell phones,…

GULF CARTEL / 18 JAN 2017

A recent wave of violence in Mexico's most important tourism corridor has sparked fears about new conflicts between drug cartels…

HOMICIDES / 29 JUL 2014

A Mexico City government program to disarm civilians has been called a success story by officials but has failed to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…