HomeNewsBriefWealthy Fishermen Ran Major Drug Trafficking Rings in Costa Rica
BRIEF

Wealthy Fishermen Ran Major Drug Trafficking Rings in Costa Rica

COCAINE / 9 JUL 2019 BY SETH ROBBINS EN

Drug smuggling fishermen in Costa Rica owned large private properties and luxury vehicles -- riches gained from leading “transportista" groups, which are becoming increasingly common in the Central American nation.

A Nicaragua national nicknamed "Antorcha" was arrested July 3 on charges he ran fleets of drug boats along the Pacific coast, CRHoy reported. The 44-year-old man, who was only identified as Sánchez, owned two docks in the port city of Puntarenas, from which the fishing boats loaded with cocaine docked and disembarked.

Authorities said that Sánchez, his son and three other men recruited fishermen to transport the drugs. Walter Espinoza, the general director of Costa Rica’s investigations department, described the group as “well-organized” and said that it had been in operation since 2017, bringing South American cocaine to Costa Rica and then "re-exporting it” to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States, La Nación reported.

SEE ALSO: Costa Rica News and Profile

Sánchez isn’t the only fisherman to have recently been found running drugs in Costa Rica.

In January, authorities arrested a 36-year-old man identified as Alfaro Bustamante, who owned two large homes and three cars, including a Mercedes Benz and a bulletproof Volkswagen truck.

Authorities said Alfaro Bustamante led a ring that moved cocaine along the Atlantic coast in exchange for Jamaican marijuana, which the group then sold in Costa Rica.

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrests of wealthy fishermen indicate that so-called "transportista" organizations -- which receive, store and move drugs -- have dropped anchor in Costa Rica.

In the last decade, such organizations had largely been based in the Northern Triangle nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where large family clans dominated the smuggling business.

Recently, however, smaller groups in Costa Rica have found ways to get into the game. For example, a Costa Rica gang known as Los Morecos controlled the movement of drugs along the country’s crucial Atlantic provinces. The gang was independent from any other drug trafficking organization -- a rarity for Costa Rica-based groups.

What makes Costa Rica ideal for transportista organizations is its location as a transshipment point.

SEE ALSO: Central America's 'Transportistas'

Its Pacific coast provides open water for the movement of go-fast boats and self-propelled semi-submersible vessels loaded with Colombian cocaine. Some 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled to the United States in 2016 was trafficked via the Pacific Ocean, according to the 2018 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Meanwhile, Costa Rica’s Atlantic ports are feeding the European cocaine pipeline. Drugs concealed in shipments of produce have disembarked from the port of Limón to Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.

The amount of cocaine seized in Costa Rica has also spiked. Though seizures are not a perfect proxy for drug movements, Costa Rica took in a record 33.6 tons of cocaine in 2018. During a single week in March this year, authorities seized 6.4 tons of cocaine. The largest bust in that stretch came when authorities intercepted a Colombian submarine carrying 1.5 tons of drugs.

The following month, another ton of cocaine was discovered aboard a boat disguised as a fishing vessel. It was 80 nautical miles off the coast of Puntarenas, where the drug smuggling fisherman had his docks.

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

COCA / 9 JAN 2019

While traditional criminal organizations have widened their portfolios dramatically in recent years, drug trafficking remains the most important earner in…

COSTA RICA / 22 JUN 2021

At a time when elites are undermining anti-graft efforts across Central America, prosecutors in Costa Rica have launched a far-reaching…

COCAINE / 20 JAN 2015

Paraguay officials say police based along the Brazilian border stole a shipment of seized cocaine, more evidence of official corruption…

About InSight Crime

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…