Despite concentrated efforts by the authorities, Colombia’s international exportation of cocaine is continuing to boom, with a potential international market value of up to US$13 billon.
On Wednesday this week Colombian police found two packages in Buenaventura with US$5.7 million in cash, sent from Houston and Mexico. Two days before, Mexico’s customs authorities seized US$6 million that drug traffickers were planning to send to Colombian cartels from Puerto Manzanillo on the Pacific.
On Friday 11 September, the Mexican Navy discovered five million dollars hidden in containers of ammonium sulfate, waiting to be sent to Colombia. And a day later, Colombian authorities in Buenaventura discovered US$11 million, also hidden in two containers of ammonium sulfate and sent from the same Mexican port.
These seizures, which exceeded US$27 million in just three days, indicate that drug trafficking shows no sign of slowing down, and that gangs are still active despite the offensive launched against them, reports Colombian news source Cambio.
Authorities believe that all of the seizures pertain to Colombian drug lord Luis Enrique ‘Comba’ Calle Serna, head of the Los Rastrojos criminal empire and one of Colombia’s eight most wanted gang leaders, with an extensive network reaching across Central America to Mexico and beyond, reports newspaper El Espectador.
Colombian officials estimate there are 80,000 hectares of coca growing across 21 departments, and say that in zones where paramilitary groups operate the drug constitutes 42 per cent of crops cultivated. 40,290 hectares with a production potential of over 185 tons of cocaine a year, can have a value in the international market of US$5.6 billion.
In areas influenced by the FARC, coca constitutes 58 per cent of illicit crops grown in the departments of Antioquia, Caqueta, Putumayo, Meta, Guaviare, Bolivar, Norte de Santander, Valle, Cauca and Nariño. 54,879 hectares of coca with a potential annual production of cocaine totaling over 252 tons can be sold in the international market for US$7.5 billion.
The Counter-Narcotics Police says there are eight “baby cartels”, whose leaders are paramilitaries who have not demobilized or heirs of those who have, who send the cocaine to the seven Mexican cartels, which then distribute it to the rest of the world.
There is a new generation of drug traffickers allied with the FARC, which also has links with Mexico and in some regions does business with ex-paramilitaries in order to distribute the drug.
Several FARC divisions do business with the Tijuana cartel run by the Arellano Felix brothers, to exchange drugs for military and logistic equipment.
The figures are staggering. According to the Anti-Narcotics division, these new drug lords “are exporting an average of 430 tons of cocaine a year,” to Mexico, who buys cocaine at US$10,000 a kilo. They then sell to distributors in the U.S. between US$25,000 and US$30,000 per kilo, and to the Europeans for US$45,000 a kilo.
For the capture of these capos, the authorities are offering up to five billion pesos reward (approx. US$2.5 million).
Mexican drug lords are sending emissaries to Colombia to negotiate and receive shipments. The authorities have registered their presence in Antioquia, Valle, Meta, Caqueta, Putumayo, Nariño, Tolima and Uraba, where a constant movement of drugs has been detected.