US magazine High Times, based in New York, interviewed three members of a semi-submersible vessel carrying cargo weekly for a group based in Colombia. They described very unpleasant conditions on board, trip hazards and volatile employers.
The magazine investigation has gone behind the scenes of a narcosubmarine, shedding light on the risks and challenges faced by the narcotic carriers.
‘Its a very dangerous game and usually the domain of the desperate, “said Jean Paul, a former French naval officer 42-year-old, who is the captain of the boat. After leaving the army he invested in real estate, but was wrapped in a debt and was introduced to the trade through acquaintances.
Two of his travels have ended in having to abandon ship when the ship once had a leak and another when the Coast Guard spotted the boat. “It’s a matter of downloading as many shipments as possible and getting out,” said Jean Paul, who managed to swim to the coast of Guatemala and escape the security forces.
Being forced out of the submarines can actually bring some relief, said the captain, who now spends more time recruiting members for the crew and engineers who actually do the sailing. “Diesel smoke can kill you too, and the stench of others shit for two days is not pleasant, “he said. “Both are generally worse than the possibility of the sub sinking.”
Once on land, carriers may face serious consequences for the loss of cargo. Jean Paul said he saw at least ten people killed, mostly crew members deemed incompetent or disloyal.
Joseph, a Guatemalan 33-year-old crew member, said that the financial rewards outweigh the risk considerably. Previously he was a fisherman and, after several bad seasons, he began working for the drug cartels collecting bags thrown out of the boat by crew members who abandoned the ships-a common situation, he told High Times.
“Many fishing boats in the region have not fished in years,” he said. “They just collect the bags, but they keep their networks in the cover to look like legitimate fishermen.”
I’d go back to fishing, but with a sick mother and four children, I cannot refuse the money offered by life on submarines. “There’s no way I could make U.S. $ 1,500 for two days of work otherwise,” he said.
The last interview of High Times, Manuel, a Salvadoran of 22 years old, has been working for the drug cartels since he was a child, and gives them credit for having saved him and many compatriots from a very poor life. “This business is very important to my people,” he said. “Many of them have no food or shelter without it”.
While the word “Narcosubmarines” may conjure up images of exciting missions, using technology such as High Times explains, in fact, “there is nothing romantic (or even high technology) on the job.” Like many of those used by drug cartels along every link in the chain of drug trafficking, exploitation and fear are part of the course. The poverty that affects much of Latin America ensures that there will never be a shortage of desperate vulnerable people or those willing to take the risks or extreme hardship in order to make some money, especially when the economic benefits are much higher than what is offered in legal work. Moreover, those who would say no, not always have that option, taking into account the power wielded by drug gangs, especially in small communities.
Technology has advanced and the first fully submersible boat was found off the coast of Ecuador in 2010, and another was found in southwestern Colombia in 2011. However, its construction costs could run into millions of dollars, the typical narcosubmarine remains crudely made. A fiberglass roof is placed on top of a boat or a cigarette speedboat cigarette. They then apply an outer coating of lead to provide stability along the pipes in the upper part to pump air to the diesel engine, and observation periscope. A hull below the deck becomes small once tones of packaged cocaine, fuel, canned food and water, leaving only 120 cm by 180cm for the crew to live for days at sea.
No bathroom. Since many trips take many days, and there are lines, which theoretically pump toxic gases emanating from the gasoline, fuel burn and bags of cocaine, the smell must be unbearable. The heat is stifling. “It constantly feel like you’re drowning,” said Gustavo Alonso, a sea captain told the magazine Spiegel. Alonso said he was forcibly recruited in Buenaventura, a center of drugs in the Colombian Pacific where it is said that many submarines are build. Buenaventura and other fishermen have told similar stories. “They said if we do not drive this device, that they would kill our families,” said Rafael Jimenez Biojo at Week magazine in 2008.
Despite the rudimentary design of typical semisubmersible, it remains a very effective way to move large quantities of drugs over long distances, a fact evidenced by the steady increase in use. For 2008, U.S. officials estimated that about a third of the cocaine shipped from Latin America to the United States was carried in submarines. In 2011 maritime interdiction missions seized 129 tons of cocaine on its way to the United States-more than five times the amount seized in the United States. Also reported a dramatic increase in the use of submersibles in the Caribbean in the last year, with the U.S. Coast Guard intercepting 50 percent more drugs in 2012 than 2011.
However, about three-quarters of potential maritime shipments identified by U.S. authorities were allowed to continue to navigate because there are not enough ships and planes to intercept them:
With a cost of only $ 500,000, but capable of transporting millions of dollars in cocaine-small semisubmersible can take two to four tons, and up to eight-these filled submarine boats are a highly profitable to smuggle drugs. However, the crew only gets a small fraction of the profits. The reports of their salaries vary greatly. However, given that the cartels can easily find or threaten people to do it for much less money, wages of $ 1,500 per trip reported by respondents from High Times seem very plausible.
“Whenever there is someone who consumes it, someone will produce it. as Alonso told Spiegel. “And idiots like me who are stupid enough to do this.”
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