HomeNewsLiquid Cocaine - a Rising Trend Among Colombia's Traffickers

Liquid Cocaine - a Rising Trend Among Colombia's Traffickers


As Colombian traffickers and police continually try to outfox each other, liquid cocaine has returned to the fore as an increasingly popular drug smuggling method.

On February 5, Colombian police seized around 3.5 tons of cocaine at the northern port of Cartagena. This was the fifth seizure of liquid cocaine since November 2021 and came just one week after the discovery of nearly 20,000 coconuts filled with liquid cocaine, also found in the port of Cartagena and bound for Italy.

In the latest seizure, the cocaine had been dissolved and mixed in two shipments, one of organic fertilizer and the other of molasses extracted from sugar cane. Both shipments came from Urabá, a region in northwestern Colombia, and authorities said they were destined for the ports of Valencia, Spain, and Veracruz, Mexico.

SEE ALSO: Container Shipping: Cocaine Hide and Seek

At a press conference, General Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia, head of Colombia’s national police, declared that while the case is still being investigated, the liquid cocaine shipments may have been planned by the Urabeños, also known as the Gulf Clan.

“Looking at the documents, [the cocaine] could be related to some of the companies that are being investigated for belonging to the Gulf Clan,” Vargas said.

Liquid cocaine was first reported in 2011 when just 13 kilograms were seized in the Bolivian department of Santa Cruz, on the border with Brazil and Paraguay. However, according to El Heraldo, citing police sources, this technique was likely used for some time previously in Colombia without being detected.

InSight Crime Analysis

The recent seizures of liquid cocaine suggest that criminal organizations have once again resorted to this modality to try and stay one step ahead of authorities in the cocaine hide-and-seek game.

As port controls become stricter, with ever more significant quantities of cocaine being seized in Latin America and Europe, criminal networks are needing to innovate. A report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) stated that liquid cocaine is almost imperceptible by scanners installed in ports or airports.

SEE ALSO: Liquid Cocaine: Bolivia’s Undetectable Drug

The production of liquid cocaine involves dissolving cocaine in water, solvents or other products containing chemical compounds such as mannitol, glucose, cellulose or lactose. It is then placed inside products such as shampoo bottles or hidden among sugar cane molasses, making it easier for them to be trafficked in containers or carried by drug mules.

Liquid cocaine is far more difficult to detect than powdered cocaine because of these methods since it is dissolved into substances that cover up its smell, accordingto Luis Fernando Trejos, a professor at Universidad del Norte.

He told InSight Crime that liquid cocaine was not previously a popular option for traffickers, since bringing it back to its original state involves a decanting process in which around 10 percent of the product can be lost.  

“But this is a risk that drug traffickers are willing to take today to circumvent controls and ensure that the product reaches its destination,” said Trejos.

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.


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.


Related Content

COLOMBIA / 11 MAR 2021

Forests in Colombia are being ravaged by illegal mining, a criminal economy that has come to rival the drug trade…

BOLIVIA / 26 JAN 2022

Authorities in Bolivia have arrested the Andean nation’s former anti-drug chief as he tried to flee the country, but how…

COLOMBIA / 13 SEP 2022

President Petro's Total Peace Plan offers high reward but carries equally high risk for criminal groups and for all of…

About InSight Crime


Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…


World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…


InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…


Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…


‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…