Monday, September 26, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Farc’s drug submarine seized in Colombia

The 16m-long (52ft) vessel – equipped with a sophisticated navigation system – was captured near the Pacific port city of Buenaventura.


The vessel would have been able to travel as far as Central America.

From the photo (see it via the link), the craft looks like a semi-submersible (i.e, the craft is not designed to operate wholly under water).

This is the first time that I recall one of these craft being explicitly linked to the FARC:

"It was going to be used by the narco-terrorist 29th front of the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in alliance with organisations of drug traffickers who operate in this southern area of the country," drugs police chief Gen Luis Alberto Perez told Efe news agency.

Filed under: Colombia,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Tuesday, September 6, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

From a few days ago via the BBC:  Thirty-six seized in Colombia anti-drug operation

Thirty-six suspects have been arrested in two operations against drug-trafficking in Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has said.


The operations were carried out jointly with the US.

The authorities seized large amounts of drugs, 21 light aircraft and submarines used to transport the drugs to Central America, to be taken to the US.

The gang is said to have been capable of exporting 10 tonnes of cocaine per month to the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

A couple of quick observations/questions:

1)  I wonder what the exact role of the US was in the operation?  Theoretically, there are limitations on exactly what the US can do in Colombia.

2)  As always, it is amazing how these raids lead to revealing substantial capabilities of any given drug gang/cell of a given operation.

3)  The direct connection to Mexican cartels underscores the current structure of the cocaine business in the current era.

Cross-posted at OTB.

Filed under: Colombia,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Sunday, June 26, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

(Originally written for OTB)

About a week ago I noticed the following headline, which I meant to blog but never go around to, via the AFP:  Colombia halves cocaine production capacity: US

Colombia’s capacity to produce cocaine fell by more than half in the past decade, according to the office of the US drug czar Thursday.

"There has been a sharp decrease in the amount of pure cocaine produced in Colombia… from an estimated 700 metric tons potential cocaine production in 2024 to 300 metric tons in 2024… a 57 percent drop," said a statement from the office of Gil Kerlikowske.

Colombian coca cultivation barely changed between 2024 and 2024 after major decreases in 2024 and 2024, it said. Colombia last year fumigated 101,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of coca and manually eradicated another 44,775.

Ninety-five percent of cocaine consumed in the United States comes from Colombia.

My immediate reaction was that we would soon find out at least one of the following:

1)  That cultivation would have grown in Peru and/or,

2)  That there was unaccounted migration of cultivation within Colombia (i.e., that the estimates were wrong because cultivators had found new places to grow within Colombia).

Well, what do I see a few minutes ago?

Via Bloomberg:    Peru Cocaine Output Rivals Colombia as World’s Largest, UN Says in Study

Peru’s production of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, has risen for a fifth straight year, putting pressure on incoming President Ollanta Humala to step up eradication efforts he has criticized.

A study by the United Nations published today shows that Peru now rivals Colombia as the world’s largest producer of cocaine after land dedicated to illegal coca production rose 2.2 percent to 61,200 hectares in 2024. Cultivation in Colombia, which receives $500 million a year in U.S. anti-narcotics aid, fell 15 percent to 62,000 hectares, according to the study based on satellite tracking by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

And so the cycle continues.  Back in the late 1990s the big triumph was the reduction of cultivation levels in Peru (which then led to a substantial increase in Colombia).  Now, just as the US and Colombian governments excitedly let us know that cultivation has diminished in Colombia we find that cultivation has shot up in Peru.

Speaking of patterns, the response from Washington will likely be a push for additional funds to be spent in Peru (lots of funds, in fact).  And then, in about a decade or so, I can write a post about how coca cultivation in down in Peru….and back up in Colombia.

The War on Drugs is the gift that keeps on giving, to be sure.

You can see the trend in the following graph, which tracks cultivation from 1987 to 2024.  Yes, it is a bit out of date, but it is one I had handy, plus the point I want to make requires looking at the 80s, 90s and early 2024s.  What we see is that Peru used to be the major source for coca leaf, but after increased pressure on that cultivation, it was eventually pushed in Colombia (note, too, that the general overall level of cultivation remained relatively steady in a given range).

As noted above, at the time the Drug Warriors proclaimed the effort in Peru a grand success.  Never mind that it had no significant effect on the overall cocaine market.


Filed under: Colombia,Latin America,OTB,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Monday, April 18, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN:  Government: Drug cartel leader ‘El Kilo’ caught in Mexico

Mexican authorities announced Saturday the arrest of a drug kingpin — nicknamed "El Kilo" — based in the country’s northeast and suspected of having links to the mass graves recently found in the region.

Security forces have captured Martin Omar Estrada Luna, who is a presumed leader of the Zetas drug cartel in San Fernando, a town in the border state of Tamaulipas, the government said in a statement.

Los Zetas are an especially nasty Mexican cartel founded by former members of Mexican special forces.

They are suspected in regards to a recently discovered series of mass graves.

Filed under: Latin America,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Tuesday, April 12, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Sacramento BeeCocaine lab in Honduras alarms anti-drug officials

The jungle complex was the first large drug-processing laboratory found north of South America’s Andean region, and it signals a major change in the cocaine business. Traditionally, the industry has processed leaves from the coca plant in hidden labs in Colombia, then shipped the cocaine to North America and Europe.

Now, however, some traffickers are shipping semi-refined coca paste, or cocaine base, to Honduras, where it goes through the final processing into white powder, police officials believe.


Counter-drug officials offered several possible motives for why traffickers would shift processing northward to Central America, including a Colombian crackdown on so-called precursor chemicals, the ingredients needed to turn coca leaves into cocaine powder.

Basically, this is the balloon effect for processing.   If the authorities are going to make it difficult for the traffickers to obtain chemical in one place, they will simply shift the process elsewhere.

Filed under: Latin America,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Monday, April 11, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP:  US: FARC and Taliban are among largest drug trafficking organizations in the world

Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield said drug-trafficking organizations have aligned with political and ideological movements in recent decades.

He cited the followers of Osama bin Laden and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as examples. Brownfield said that although the two groups don’t exist for drug trafficking, it can no longer be considered separate from their political and ideological goals.

And the reason for this is quite simple:  drugs, especially with black market prices in place, are an excellent way to fund armed groups.

Filed under: War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Wednesday, March 16, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia Farc ‘drug boss’ Oliver Solarte killed

Colombia’s armed forces say they have killed a Farc rebel leader who acted as the group’s main contact with Mexico’s drug cartels.

The rebel known as Oliver Solarte controlled drugs and weapons smuggling operations in southern Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

He died in an attack on rebel positions near the border with Ecuador.

More via El TiempoCae ‘Oliver Solarte’, gran narco de las Farc

Filed under: Colombia,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Sunday, January 2, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

War on Drugs Reconsidered

Filed under: OTB,US Politics,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Friday, December 10, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The Balloon Effect1 continues as War on Drugs continues.

Via Bloomberg:  Colombia Cocaine Output Fell Last Year Amid Spraying, U.S. Drug Czar Says

Colombia’s capacity to produce pure cocaine fell by 10 tons to 270 metric tons in 2024 from a year earlier


Cocaine production in neighboring Peru rose last year, to 225 metric tons, while output in Bolivia remained stable at 195 metric tons, according to today’s statement by the White House drug czar.

It is worth noting that at one point, Peru produced more coca leaf than Colombia, but as interdiction efforts worked in Peru, cultivation moved into Colombia.

The main effects at the moment would appear to be in regards to street purity:  “Purity of cocaine seized in bulk shipments in the U.S. declined 14 percent from 2024 to 2024.”

Overall, cocaine usage is down, but overall drug usage is up according to the piece (which strikes me as raising the question of the efficacy of the money being spent on cocaine if the only result is a shift in what drugs are used).

  1. Squeeze a balloon and watch how the air moves from where you squeeze to bulge out elsewhere []
Filed under: Colombia,Latin America,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
Thursday, December 2, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia vows to eradicate drugs money from football

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has promised to stop the infiltration of drug money into the country’s professional football clubs.


The Colombian congress is debating legislation intended to make the financing of football clubs more transparent.

Independiente Santa Fe is alleged to have laundered millions of dollars in drugs money for the fugitive drugs trafficker Daniel "El Loco" Barrera.

Prosecutors allege that $29m and 17m Euros (£33m) seized in October were destined for the club.

The club’s directors have promised full co-operation with the investigation.

My first thought on this is to think back to the notorious relationship between Colombian soccer and drug cartels in the 1980s and earl 1990s, including the Colombian national team (see my review of The Two Escobars here).

My second thought is that it is a a sign of progress for Colombia that the president and congress have time to deal with such issues and that it is making international news (rather than stories about violence and the like).

Filed under: Colombia,Sports,War on Drugs | Comments Off|
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