Caribbean Cocaine Seizure Highlights Nicaragua’s Role in Drug Trade

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In a joint operation, US and Colombian security forces seized a ton of cocaine from a fishing vessel manned by Nicaraguans, drawing attention to the Central American country’s growing role in maritime drug trafficking.

The US Coast Guard detained six Nicaraguans on a fishing boat some 40 nautical miles off Nicaragua’s northeastern Caribbean coast, near the town of Puerto Cabezas, as Radio Santa Fe reported on September 26. The boat was carrying a little over a ton of cocaine.

The force also seized 1.3 tons of cocaine from a Honduran-manned go-fast boat close to Honduras’ coast, according to the same report. Combined, the two shipments would have a street value of about $70 million on the international market, reported Radio Santa Fe.

Colombian authorities alerted the US Coast Guard to the boats’ movements. The two countries’ cooperation in anti-drug enforcement has resulted in more than 7 tons of cocaine being seized in September, according to Ansalatina.

InSight Crime Analysis

Recently released statistics show that the majority of drug boats running through the Caribbean are manned by Colombians, based on the nationalities of those detained under the US’s Operation Martillo so far this year. However, the arrest of the six Nicaraguans indicates that this country’s drug trafficking groups also play a role in the maritime shipment of cocaine.

As InSight Crime noted in its investigation into Nicaraguan drug trafficking, increased law enforcement pressure in other Central American countries, as well as in Mexico and Colombia, could have the effect of increasing Nicaragua’s role in the drug trade. The country’s coastal towns already provide refueling stations for go-fast boats moving up the Caribbean coast to connect with Mexican drug gangs, who then transport the product overland to the United States. In Nicaragua, traffickers often switch go-fast boats for more under-the-radar fishing vessels, and divide shipments into smaller containers. This appears to have been the case with the boat the United States interdicted.

In 2011, Nicaragua’s Navy seized 4.7 tons of cocaine, a large drop from the previous year’s total of 13.6 tons in maritime seizures.

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