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Fishermen who were engaged in drug smuggling in Costa Rica owned large private properties and luxury cars, wealth obtained through the management of groups of “carriers”, which are increasingly common in the Central American country.
A Nicaraguan citizen known as “Antorcha” was arrested on July 3, accused of running fleets of ships carrying drugs on the Pacific coast, according to CRHoy. The 44-year-old man, who was identified simply as Sanchez, owned two docks in the port city of Puntarenas, where docked and loaded boats loaded with cocaine.
Authorities say Sánchez, his son and three other men recruited fishermen to transport drugs. In a report by La Nación, Walter Espinoza, general director of the department of investigations of Costa Rica, says that the group was “well organized” and that it had been operating since 2017, taking cocaine from South America to Costa Rica, and then “re-exporting” it to Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.
Besides Sanchez, other fishermen dedicated to the drug business in Costa Rica have recently been identified.
In January, authorities arrested a 36-year-old man identified as Alfaro Bustamante, who owned two large houses and two cars: a Mercedes Benz and an armored Volkswagen truck.
Authorities say that Alfaro Bustamante ran a network that moved cocaine along the Atlantic coast in exchange for Jamaican marijuana, which the group later sold in Costa Rica.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrest of wealthy fishermen indicates that the so-called “transporter” organizations – which are in charge of receiving, storing and transporting drugs – have cast their anchors in Costa Rica.
In the last decade, these organizations were located mainly in countries of the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras), where contraband was dominated by family clans.
Recently, however, smaller Costa Rican groups have managed to venture into the business. For example, a Costa Rican group known as Los Morecos controls the movement of drugs in important provinces of the Atlantic coast in the country. This band was independent of any other drug trafficking organization, which is rare in Costa Rican groups.
Costa Rica is ideal for carriers organizations due to its location as a transshipment point.
The Pacific coast of the country provides open waters for the movement of launches and self-propelled semi-submersible vessels loaded with Colombian cocaine. About 80 percent of the cocaine that entered the United States in 2016 passed through the Pacific Ocean, according to the World Drug Report 2018 , of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
On the other hand, the ports of Costa Rica in the Atlantic are supplying the cocaine market in Europe. From the port of Limón, ships with hidden cocaine have set sail in shipments of legal products, which have docked in ports in Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.
The amount of cocaine seized in Costa Rica has also increased. Although seizures are not a perfect indicator to measure the flow of drugs, Costa Rica registered 33.6 tons of cocaine in 2018. During a single week in March of this year, authorities confiscated 6.4 tons of cocaine. The largest raid in that period occurred when authorities intercepted a Colombian submarine transporting 1.5 tons of drugs.
The following month, another ton of cocaine was discovered aboard a ship that was posing as a fishing boat . The ship was 80 nautical miles off the coast of Puntarenas, where the wharves of the narcotics trafficker were located.