The first vessel found in the southwest Valle del Cauca department on Friday, had the capacity to hold 10 tons of cocaine and was equipped with navigation equipment and a GPS system, according to the police.
Luis Alvarado, director of the Anti-Narcotics Police, said that intelligence work led to the discovery of the submarine, which was being guarded by 30 guerrillas who fled upon the arrival of troops. according to experts, the 16 by 1.8 meter vessel could have traveled to Central America, and perhaps Mexico, without problems.
A second submarine, which authorities also said belonged to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was found north of the first, in the province of Choco, police announced Monday.
Police said that both vessels belonged to Jorge Neftali Umenza Velasco, alias “Mincho,” head of the 30th Front of the rebel group, according to to some reports.
Submersible and semi-submersible vessels are increasingly popular with Colombian drug trafficking groups, as they can transport large amounts of narcotics undetected under the surface of the ocean.
However, it is not likely that the FARC actually made or owned the vessel, as this would be a significant departure from the organization’s usual modus operandi. The group occupies itself with producing cocaine rather than with shipping it out of the country, and it is forced to be constantly mobile, under pressure from the security forces, so would be unlikely to invest in a large item like a submarine.
With the fall of the two main drug trafficking cartels of Medellin and Cali in the 1990s, some of organizations that inherited their drug routes were members of the newly formed Norte del Valle Cartel. The FARC and ELN guerrillas came to control the coca-growing regions in the Colombian Amazon and to tax the income from the sale of coca-paste. The para-military groups initially grew out of the private armies of cocaine cartels. They have however also been employed by the Colombian state to assassinate trade unionists, left-wing priests and any others deemed to be leftist sympathists. “The strengthening of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during the 1990s was an unintended consequence of a series of tactical successes in U.S. antidrug policies. These included dismantling the Medellín and Cali drug cartels, interdicting coca coming into Colombian processing facilities, and using drug certification requirements to pressure the Colombian government to attack drug cartels and allow aerial fumigation of coca crops. These successes, however, merely pushed coca cultivation increasingly to FARC-dominated areas while weakening many of the FARC’s political-military opponents. This provided the FARC with unprecedented opportunities to extract resources from the cocaine industry to deepen its long insurgency against the Colombian state.
The Norte del Valle cartel is estimated to have exported more than 1.2 million pounds – or 500 metric tons – of cocaine worth in excess of $10 billion from Colombia to Mexico and ultimately to the United States for resale. Indictments filed in the United States charge the Norte del Valle cartel with using violence and brutality to further its goals, including the murder of rivals, individuals who failed to pay for cocaine, and associates who were believed to be working as informants. Leaders of the Norte del Valle cartel were further alleged to have bribed and corrupted Colombian law enforcement and Colombian legislators to, among other things, attempt to block the extradition of Colombian narcotics traffickers to the United States for further prosecution. According to the indictments filed in the United States, members of the Norte del Valle cartel even conducted their own wiretaps in Colombia to intercept the communications of rival drug traffickers and Colombian and United States law enforcement officials.
The cartel is believed to have employed the services of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary organization internationally classified as a terrorist organization, to protect the cartel’s drug routes, its drug laboratories, and its members and associates.