Drug Smugglers Go Underwater
Filed Under: World | Posted: 07/18/2008 at 11:34AM
Comments | Region: Colombia
As drug smuggling becomes more and more dicey, smugglers are becoming more and more resourceful. Smugglers for years have used fast boats on the water to get their illegal wares to customers. But now they’ve taken to traveling under the water in homemade submarines that are very difficult to detect.
The Mexican navy seized one of them just this week in the Pacific, about 125 miles off the southern state of Oaxaca. They’re not telling how they found the sub, only that “intelligence” from national and international agencies helped them discover it. The 33-foot vessel was carrying several tons of cocaine. The four-man crew, who identified themselves as fishermen, claimed they did not know what was in the sealed cargo.
They had left the Colombian coastal town of Buenaventura and had traveled about 1300 miles in a week. They were to be paid $500 each by drug traffickers who threatened to harm their families, they told officials.
This isn’t the first time mini-subs have been intercepted. The US Coast Guard has seized more than a dozen in the last two and a half years, which is considered a fraction of the submarines out in the seas. It shows how crafty the drug traffickers are becoming as they push their cargo toward the US.
The fiberglass subs are generally well constructed, although they are not able to dive and resurface like regular submarines. Increasingly sophisticated, with self-propelled models powered by 350-horsepower diesel engines and equipped with ballast and communications systems, they are hard to spot.
Buenaventura is one of the places where Colombian authorities have seized the fiberglass mini-subs, some while still under construction. Officials believe that at least some of the boats have been built for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a rebel group widely considered the country’s leading drug trafficker.
US law enforcement officials are concerned that the vessels could eventually be used by terrorists against American targets.