Colombia has intercepted its first narco-submarine of the year, the navy said Monday, as drug traffickers in the South American country produce record amounts of cocaine destined for Europe and the United States.
The submersible was intercepted on Saturday morning off Colombia’s Pacific Coast, navy spokesman Capt. Wilmer Roa said. The 15 meter-long, homemade craft was carrying almost 800 kilograms of cocaine in small packages the size of bricks. The packets were were stamped with images of scorpions and Mexican flags.
“In reality, this was a small” seizure, Roa said. “We’ve caught submarines with almost 3,500 kilos” of the drug.
Roa said that last year Colombia’s navy captured 10 narco-submarines.
Colombia’s government has struggled to limit cocaine production in recent years, as rebel groups and drug trafficking gangs take over territory that was abandoned by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrillas following the group’s 2016 peace deal with the government.
According to the UN’s office for Drug and Crime, the area planted with coca bushes in Colombia reached an all time high of 230,000 hectares in 2022, with potential cocaine production also rising to 1,700 tons – a 24% increase from the previous year.
But while cocaine production increases in Colombia, Ecuador is becoming a popular route to smuggle the drug.
On Saturday, officials in Ecuador announced they had also seized a submarine carrying 3.2 tons of cocaine. The submarine was captured with information supplied by Colombia’s navy.
Roa explained that drug traffickers use the hulls of speedboats to make the submersibles, and adapt them so they can travel slightly under the surface of the sea.
“Some people die inside these machines, because they experience mechanical failures, or have very small ducts for letting in fresh air,” he said.
– Astrid Súarez and Manuel Rueda, AP News