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The drug lord used a number of ingenious strategies to get his product to the United States. Many were discovered and stopped using. But others, with their modifications, continue to be used by today’s criminal gangs.
Pablo Escobar came to bill hundreds of millions of euros per week with the drug trafficking business. For this, he pioneered several methods of trafficking with which he sent cocaine abroad. A submarine, chemical processes, aircraft fleet, mules, double bottom suitcases, fishing boats are just some means used to fill the United States with drugs. Currently, Colombian criminal gangs have retaken some of these strategies and sophisticated others.
Perhaps the biggest mystery about the illicit business that the late leader of the Medellín cartel has raised is an alleged submarine that two CIA exagents said they found . Doug Lax and Ben Smith made an inspection in the seas of Colombia where they located the remains of the ship that, in addition, was said to have hidden a guaca with about 70 million dollars.
The expedition was televised by the Finding Escobar’s Millions program on the Discovery UK channel. The documentary is recorded when professional divers find scraps of metal from the ship, and a box that appears to be a battery. But they never find the supposed money or the drug that was said to remain there. Few credit that Escobar really had a submarine.
The capo had a failed attempt to buy a submarine from the Soviets with the help of the then president of Cuba, the late Fidel Castro. And, the truth is, in the international black market it is impossible to get one, that’s why the new bosses have opted to manufacture them with their own means . This has been confirmed by the Colombian Public Force, which has already seized ships of this type.
In 2017, the Colombian Navy found the first electric submarine used to transport cocaine in the San Juan and Baudó river basins, a rural area in the department of Chocó, bordering Panama. It was a huge 11-meter green boat, which contained, that thanks to its electric propulsion could navigate three meters below the surface, up to three tons of coca.
The submersible was constructed manually with sheets of naval steel, formed with four stabilizing fins, radars and navigation cameras, and more than 100 batteries that fed the two electric motors that operated for the immersion. Its construction, which should have taken between five and six months, cost more than 1.5 million dollars, according to estimates by the authorities.
“The batteries that feed the machine do not produce gases and allow navigation in immersion, which makes it difficult to detect them,” the Navy reported at that time. They explained that it does not appear in radars, but as a point with which the waves are also indicated. Its manufacture was so elaborate that the authorities assume that who did it worked in the Navy, because almost nobody has that specialty. And according to the investigation, it could belong to an alliance between the Gulf Clan and the ELN.
With this submarine they discovered a new strategy to transport drugs abroad, which materialized the idea that once had the largest drug trafficker that has ever been in Colombia, without ever being able to fulfill it. And, in the same way, criminal gangs dedicated to the illicit business have sophisticated methods used by Escobar and resumed others that in the 1980s made Colombia the largest exporter of cocaine to the United States.
Other methods of Escobar
Pablo Escobar had a fleet of 15 planes and 6 helicopters with clandestine routes in different parts of the Colombian jungle and in other countries to transport cocaine directly to the United States. But it also had other methods of distribution that varied, although since then they have been used by different drug traffickers, in recent years there has been an unusual return to these strategies.
The reasons are varied, explained a source of the Police to the newspaper El Espectador. One of them has to do with the seizures of the authorities, because when a large cargo falls the drug traffickers lose a lot of money. This has forced the criminals to traffic in smaller quantities, which means less losses if they are discovered, and which, moreover, makes detection more difficult. That strategy is known as ‘smurf ‘.
In the 1980s, the Medellín cartel bribed airlines and tourist boats to ship small quantities of doga. Escobar managed to get up to two tons of cocaine in small sailboats from Urabá to Central America. The modality has resurfaced but in luxury jets. Last year the British authorities discovered a charter flight that had left Bogota with 500 kilos of hydrochloride.
So they discovered a large network that used VIP service airlines to hire luxury jets that camouflaged false entrepreneurs who come to do “business” to Colombia and embarked with their designer suitcases full of coca paste. That method was done by Escobar with his partner Carlos Lehder , who bought an island in the Bahamas to land the aircraft.
They were also the ones who established the so-called ‘ mules ‘, people who ingest drug capsules or carry them adhered to their bodies, or in their double-bottomed suitcases, to travel to other countries. It is still a widely used strategy, now even the capsules also carry money, it is the way to transport the profits of illegal activity from one country to another.
Another method that has been perfected is the one that Escobar used, dropping the merchandise that went on airplanes into the open sea, and that was later picked up by speedboats to transport it to Miami . The system was discovered by the DEA and stopped using. But the Colombian drug lords transformed it into what they call ‘ parasites ‘.
The National Navy explains that the ‘parasites’ are tubes filled with cocaine that are hooked on merchant ships , with or without their complicity, that carry a buoy with a locator . If the vessel is intercepted in some way by the authorities, the narcos release the parasites, which quickly move away to three or four nautical miles. When the operation ends, they recover the cargo that is accurately located via satellite.
Among the strategies that have returned is one of the most famous of Escobar, for his boldness: impregnating garments with liquid cocaine , which after a chemical process was recovered. The capo wore jeans, but when the authorities discovered it, they began to check each order of clothing sent abroad.
So the leader of the Medellín Cartel decided to start impregnating the cardboard boxes in which the jeans were going. If a shipment was intercepted, the authorities would keep the clothes to check it and throw out the boxes, which were then picked up by the narcos and recovered the drug.
That same method is used now but not only by wearing clothes, but by hiding cocaine through a chemical process in creams, gels, exfoliants , adhering in plastic, mixed with coal, fruit pulp . They even change the appearance of the drug, such as color and smell, so that it goes unnoticed at regular airport checkpoints.
Last year, the Anti-narcotics Police of the El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá seized a 90-centimeter painting of the Virgin Mary where they hid 10 kilos of pink cocaine , better known as 2CB, between the ink and the frame of the painting. The cargo would have a value of 35 thousand dollars on the black market in the United States.
40 years after these methods were invented by Pablo Escobar and his partners in the Medellin cartel, the current narcos are using them again. And the authorities -details El Espectador- investigate whether another reason for this change is the return of old and powerful drug traffickers of that time who have returned to the country after serving their sentence in the United States.
Source: Tiempo de San Juan