Cocaine seized off Dominican Republic coast in January

Authorities in the Dominican Republic have confiscated 1.9 tons of cocaine, bringing the amount seized in the first three months of this year to more than half of that seized during the whole of 2012.

The illegal cargo was worth more than $20 million, and had been transported from South America in a speedboat with four men on board, according to the Associated Press. After a chase lasting several hours, the occupants abandoned the boat on the tourist island of Saona, east of Santo Domingo.

Early indications suggested that the drugs belonged to Colombia's Norte del Valle Cartel, said officials. This group is generally considered to be defunct, and so the officials were likely referring to one of its successor groups, such as the Rastrojos.

InSight Crime Analysis

This drug haul follows the seizure of 1,870 kilos and 900 kilos of cocaine in two operations in January, bringing the total confiscated in the first three months of the year to over 4.67 tons. Over the course of 2012 authorities seized a total of 8.3 tons, in what was itself a record year.

The Dominican Republic is among various Caribbean countries which have seen an uptick in drug seizures in recent years, providing evidence that traffickers' use of the region as a corridor to transport shipments from South America to the United States is on the rise once more. According to US State Department figures, around 724 kilos of cocaine was seized in the Eastern Caribbean islands during 2012, compared to 558 kilos in 2011.

Although it is estimated that only around 5 percent of the cocaine that arrives in the United States transits the Caribbean, pressure from law enforcement operations in Central America is thought to be forcing traffickers to shift more product back along maritime routes through the Caribbean.

(See video, below, on the arrest of some 35 security officials in connection with a cocaine trafficking ring.)