Authorities in Chile have reported a string of massive maritime seizures of "creepy" marijuana, as traffickers now move the sought-after drug by sea and land, and from a wider range of departure points.
Chile's maritime authorities seized almost 7 tons of creepy marijuana in 2021, culminating with the largest haul in November when 3.5 tons of creepy were found in the central Chacullata region after being delivered by a vessel sailing from Colombia, according to a government news release.
According to La Tercera, authorities tracked the vessel down the Pacific coast until it dropped off its merchandise in the Chacullata region, along Chile's border with Peru. Authorities later dismantled the Colombian trafficking ring responsible on November 26 as they were making a separate delivery of 900 kilograms of cannabis to two Chilean gangs.
Creepy marijuana has been growing in prominence across Latin America. Primarily grown in Colombia, it contains far higher levels of the psychoactive drug THC than standard marijuana.
According to a police press release, Chile's latest seizure of creepy marijuana occurred in late December, when Navy personnel intercepted a Peruvian-flagged boat near the northern border port of Arica. Authorities discovered nearly 1.4 tons of cannabis aboard the vessel. And in August 2021, more than one ton of creepy marijuana was discovered in a shipping container at Chile's port of San Antonio.
Land seizures are also regularly being seen once again. In November, nearly 200 kilograms of creepy were caught in Chile's northern province of El Loa, which borders Bolivia. And in June, creepy marijuana and cocaine worth $1.5 million were seized in Antofagasta and were tracked back to Bolivia, having come from Colombia originally.
Creepy marijuana is grown in vast quantities in the hillsides of Colombia's Cauca region. In Cauca, it sells for anywhere between 30,000 and 120,000 Colombian pesos ($9 to $45) a kilogram, but these prices go far higher in Chile.
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Colombian creepy has reached the Southern Cone countries in past years, but authorities noted a rise in marijuana coming into Chile by first passing through Ecuador and Peru, according to the State Department's 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR).
Traffickers turned to maritime routes during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely to circumvent Chile's strict border closures. The country did not reopen its borders fully until October 2021.
Now, Chile is confronting trafficking on two fronts as smugglers use newly established maritime routes in the Pacific and return to land routes.
At sea, cargo containers are the most common smuggling technique. In November 2021, more than 160 kilograms of creepy were hidden in containers with declared banana exports from Ecuador, according to a Chilean Navy press release. But drugs are also commonly inserted on ships at intermediary ports, especially in Central America. To further help evade authorities, traffickers use fishing boats leaving Colombia or Peru headed for Chilean ports in the north and "luxury" yachts with greater freedom of movement and less regulation than cargo and fishing ships.
Land borders have become of growing concern for Chilean authorities, especially that with Bolivia, due to drug trafficking, human smuggling, and contraband. The issue has become a regular sticking point between the two countries. Chile has seen better success in collaborating with Peru and Ecuador to crackdown on transnational drug trafficking rings.