jueves, 15 de julio de 2010
Photograph by Mauricio Duenas, AFP/Getty Images
The Colombian Navy forces a handmade submarine, laden with 1.6 tons of cocaine, to make an unscheduled stop in the Pacific port of Tumaco (map) in 2008.
Built of fiberglass and powered by ordinary marine diesel engines, most cocaine subs skim the surface of the Pacific undetected by radar as they cruise north from South America, DEA agents told National Geographic for the recent documentary Inside Cocaine Submarines.
Once in Central America or Mexico, the cocaine is transported via other means to the drug's ultimate destination, the United States.
Costing about a million dollars each to build, most cocaine subs are scuttled after just one successful run. But fully submersible craft, like the one seized in Ecuador on July 2, are clearly designed for repeated use, former DEA official Braun told National Geographic News.
Photograph by Jaime Saldarriaga, Reuters
Much more primitive than the fully submersible cocaine submarine seized on July 2, unmanned "torpedo subs"—like this one seized in Buenaventura, Colombia, in 2008—are filled with contraband and towed underwater behind a fishing boat, doctor and former smuggler Miguel Angel Montoya said in the online documentary Colombian Narcosubs.
If approached, smugglers can simply cut a torpedo loose and let it sink—a tactic used by crews of all types of narco-subs. Because most manned cocaine subs stay at the surface, a crew can quickly escape into a raft while scuttling the ship.
The simple torpedo sub, though, may be in for a high-tech makeover too. Remote control cocaine torpedoes are believed to be in the works, according to Montoya.
Cocaine Submarine Seized July 2
Photograph from Reuters
Ecuadorian police pose atop what U.S. officials called a "game changing"submarine built by drug smugglers on July 2 near the town of San Lorenzo (map), just south of the Colombian border.
Unlike previous known "cocaine subs," which could dip only just below the surface, the illegal craft appears capable of diving as deep as 65 feet (20 meters).
Seized before its maiden voyage, the 98-foot-long (30-meter-long) fiberglass sub was big enough to hold six to ten tons of cocaine and six crew members. The remote swamp camp where it was built was outfitted for up to 50 workers, though only 1 was present at the time of the raid.
With a ballast system never before seen in a cocaine sub, the handmade sub suggests smugglers are rapidly improving on the more common, semisubmersible designs, which are already difficult to detect.
"It's obviously an eye-opener," said Michael Braun, a former chief of operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which assisted in the seizure operation.
"There's been a lot of speculation," said Braun, now with Spectre Group International, a private security company. "But now there's direct evidence that the bad guys have the ability to build these things an