image source: latino.foxnews.com
Over the weekend, 50 Colombian police commandos and a fleet of helicopters carried out a massive operation, resulting in a drug seizure of over 8 metric tons of cocaine—17,500 pounds. That’s more than an African elephant weighs. The drugs would have a street value of about 250 million dollars in New York.
One site of seizure was on a banana farm, where Colombian police raided a small building with hundreds of bricks of cocaine hidden in an underground chamber. The farm is located in the town of Turbo, about 300 miles from the country’s capital city, Bogota. Supposedly the drugs were destined for the Caribbean and then the United States.
This is the largest drug confiscation in the country’s history, where Pablo Escobar rose to power as a drug lord with the Medellin Cartel. Colombian authorities consider the seizure a huge victory in a war they’ve been waging for the past year against a drug gang called Clan Úsuga. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos even sent out a tweet congratulating police. So far this year, they’ve seized over 86 tons of cocaine.
The drugs were stashed on the farm by the gang’s second in command, who’s known as Gavilán. The Colombian government is now searching for the ruthless leader of the gang, Dario Antonia Úsuga David, also known as Otoniel. There is a 5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture. In retaliation, Otoniel has placed bounties on the heads of police.
Also referred to as Los Urabeños, Clan Úsuga is considered Colombia’s “largest and most influential drug trafficking group,” according to the U.S. Justice Department. The gang is considered to be “a heavily armed, extremely violent criminal organization comprised of former members of terrorist organizations.”
The Colombian government hopes this huge seizure means law enforcement is closing in on the gang. Though 8 tons is a massive amount, it’s not liable to put the drug gangs out of business—Colombia produced 442 metric tons of cocaine in the year 2014 alone.
What This Means for The U.S.
U.S. officials, alongside the Colombian government, are hoping law enforcement can catch up with Los Urbaeños and cease the endless drug trafficking across borders. The United States is the world’s largest consumer of cocaine, consuming around 160 tons in a year. That’s 36% of the total cocaine market.
On top of that, 95% of cocaine that’s seized in the U.S. was produced in Colombia. It’s shipped to us through Mexico and the Caribbean, often arriving by boat to ports in South Florida like Miami and Orlando. Some drugs are even smuggled onto flights, hidden in undergarments, in suitcases and handbags, even in baked goods and produce.
Cocaine became a huge industry because Colombia is a country with plenty of room for agriculture. There are tens of thousands of hectares of land designated to growing its native coca leaves, which are used in the production of pure cocaine.
Cocaine use in the U.S. has been on the decline since 2007, mirroring the decline in cocaine’s availability after the DEA’s efforts to prevent the drug from crossing the border. Though cocaine use has become less of a threat in the United States relative to the growing heroin epidemic, these issues are intertwined.
Colombia is a dominant force in the trafficking of heroin, alongside Mexican trafficking organizations. Most of the heroin in the U.S. comes from these two countries. Heroin use and demand have been increasing, and the same gangs, like Los Urbaeños, are trafficking these drugs to their highest-demand consumers: The United States.