TODAY COLOMBIA – More details have emerged on the transport and seizure of a record seven tons of cocaine at the Colombian port of Cartagena, revealing that the shipment, bound for Europe, also involved Mexican cartels.
Colombia’s National Police chief, General Rodolfo Palomino, told El Tiempo that there were three different consignments within the seven tons of cocaine found in a container of fruit pulp in the historic city of Cartagena and that the load had initially been put together in Bogota.
The drugs, which had been collected since December last year, left the capital in a large truck, hidden among pineapple fruit pulp. On the journey the truck passed through four vehicle checkpoints and three revisions in the port without undergoing any thorough search, prompting the police to suspect the involvement of corrupt policeman and port authorities.
“It is clear that personnel that work or operate within the port, including uniformed officials, were aware of the drug shipment, and part of the operation,” said General Palomino.
Colombian authorities also revealed that the operation to seize the drugs was overseen by the anti-narcotics police working with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This in itself is unusual as the main US partner in counter-narcotics operations in Colombia is the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). ICE sources stated that this was at least the third shipment to be dispatched by the same groups to Europe, via the same route, one of four tons and another of five tons.
The bricks of cocaine had three different markings on them, each corresponding to a different supplier. One was a seal of a Yamaha motorcycle, another with the KIA car logo and the last was the number “800.” The latter has been linked to the Urabeños, Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking syndicate, one of the others is linked to Mexican cartels, either Sinaloa or the Zetas, and the third has yet to be identified.
There are two unusual elements to this shipment. The first is that the entire load was put together in Bogota, which is not known as a collection point for major drug shipments unless the capital is the departure point — with loads leaving by air. Usually different, smaller drug consignments are put together into a big load very close to the departure point, to reduce the risk of seizure.
The second interesting element is the fact that half the load was Mexican and bound for Europe. The Mexicans dominate the US market, although they have increasing interests in Europe, where the price of a kilo of cocaine is significantly higher. The fact that the Urabeños are working with the Mexicans to supply the European, as well the US market, shows ever deepening levels of cooperation.