SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – President Laura Chinchilla scored a major victory in her fight against narcotics when the Costa Rican Drug Control Police (PCD) broke up a cocaine-trafficking organization that used fishing boats to smuggle narcotics from Ecuador and Colombia through Central America and into Mexico.
Five Colombians were arrested for their alleged involvement in the organization, which compensated fishermen to transport the cocaine to Guatemala and Mexico, the Security Ministry said in a statement.
The apprehensions occurred in the nation’s capital and in the Pacific coast city of Puntarenas on Jan. 29, according to The Associated Press.
The PCD seized three vehicles, a motorcycle and more than US$65,000, said Mauricio Boraschi, the national anti-drug commissioner.
The suspects will face charges of international drug trafficking, a crime punishable in Costa Rica by up to 20 years in prison, officials said.
Officials said narcotics traffickers, especially cartels, are using the Central American nation as a hub in the smuggling of drugs from South America into Mexico and the United States.
Colombia: Navy seizes more than a ton of cocaine
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The navy arrested one in connection with the seizure of more than a ton of cocaine off a boat it stopped along the Pacific coast of the department of Chocó this past weekend, officials said.
Officials, who said two of the boat’s occupants escaped, added the cocaine had a street value of US$30 million, according to the BBC.
The navy seized about two tons of cocaine during raids off the country’s Pacific coast in January.
Officials said narcotics traffickers frequently use the department of Chocó as a launching point for boats transporting drugs to Panama.
Drug traffickers often use the dense jungle areas of Chocó to launch boats loaded with drugs heading for Panama and beyond.
Spain: 71 kilograms of cocaine seized
MADRID, Spain – Spanish police apprehended seven suspects in connection with the confiscation of 71 kilograms (156 pounds) of cocaine stashed in a shipment of roses that arrived at the airport in the nation’s capital from Colombia, according to the Interior Ministry on Feb. 1.
The narcotic was discovered in 60 parcels of roses at the cargo area at the nation’s busiest airport. The arrests occurred in the cities of Murcia and Valencia, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Police said the suspects are members of a narcotics trafficking organization that failed to move 800 kilograms (1,760 pounds) of the narcotic hidden in polypropylene in 2009, according to Agence France-Presse.
Spain’s close ties with the Andean nations, a major cocaine producing region, have made it Europe’s main entry point for the drug.
Spanish law enforcement officials confiscated 162 kilos (356 pounds) of cocaine concealed in plastic bananas that had been mixed in with a 20-ton shipment of authentic bananas sent from Ecuador last month.
Colombia: Army dismantles three cocaine labs
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – The army destroyed two narcotics laboratories in the municipality of Puerto Asís in the department of Putumayo and another in the department of Cauca, officials said on Jan. 29.
The soldiers disposed of a large amount of chemicals used in the production of narcotics, eight metal tanks for fuel storage, several plastic containers and a scale, officials said, according to the Colombian website El Espectador.com.
It is unclear who owned the laboratories, officials said.
In the municipality of Algeria in the department of Cauca, soldiers destroyed a facility containing 110 kilograms (242 pounds) of coca leaves, 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of cement and 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of urea.
Mexico: Army captures two alleged cartel lookouts
MEXICO CITY – Two teenagers who police allege served as lookouts for the South Pacific drug cartel were captured on Jan. 27, authorities said.
The Mexican military apprehended Giovanni Molina Ortiz, 18, and Erik Antonio Gómez, 15, in the central state of Morelos.
Authorities said the teenagers are suspected of being accomplices of Edgar Jiménez Lugo, 14, the alleged hitman who goes by the alias “El Ponchis”. Jiménez Lugo allegedly carried out executions for the South Pacific cartel.
Authorities arrested Jiménez Lugo and two of his sisters in December.
The three teenagers allegedly worked for South Pacific cartel leader Julio De Jesús Radilla Hernández, who paid them thousands of pesos weekly as lookouts.
Colombia: Army destroys illegal poppy plantation
BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Army troops destroyed an illegal poppy plantation in a rural area of the municipality of La Vega in the department of Cauca, officials said this week.
Soldiers destroyed 10,000 poppy plants, as well as supplies and tools used in the production of cocaine.
In the past 10 days, the army has found three plantations with more than 20,000 poppy plants in La Vega, according to the Colombian website El Espectador.com.
U.S. Treasury sanctions alleged narcotics, money laundering group
WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned suspected Lebanese narcotics trafficker Ayman Joumaa as well as nine individuals and 19 entities allegedly connected to his narcotics trafficking and money laundering organization.
Joumaa and his organization are suspected of laundering as much as US$200 million monthly through numerous methods, including cash smuggling operations and Lebanese exchange houses, the Treasury said in the statement.
Joumaa’s organization, which allegedly operates in Lebanon, West Africa, Panama and Colombia, is suspected of overseeing the transportation, trafficking, and selling of multi-ton shipments of cocaine from South America.
“Ayman Joumaa runs a complex money laundering scheme moving hundreds of millions of dollars of illicitly derived proceeds through businesses operated by him and his associates,” said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin in the statement. “By exposing this international drug trafficking and money laundering organization, today’s action will disrupt this network and obstruct their access to the international financial system.”