How Drug Traffickers Are Returning To The Caribbean

Oct 4, 2013

Crew members aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Valiant transfer bales of cocaine caught on Feb. 19. Roughly 1,400 pounds of cocaine were seized from a speedboat in the Caribbean in the operation. Officials say drug traffickers are sending larger shipments of cocaine through the Caribbean.
Credit Petty Officer 3rd Class Jon-Paul Rios / U.S. COAST GUARD

More of the cocaine smuggled to the United States is passing through the Caribbean, officials said, representing a shift in which drug traffickers are returning to a region they largely abandoned decades ago.

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A full 14 percent of cocaine bound for the U.S. was trafficked through the Caribbean in the first half of 2013, double the 7 percent that came through the region during the same period a year earlier, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

“What we’re seeing is that traffickers are increasing the amount of cocaine in each” shipment, said Vito S. Guarino, special agent in charge of the DEA’s Caribbean division, based in Puerto Rico. “This is a shift toward the Caribbean. . . . And the picture we’re looking at right now will be the picture for the next few years.”

Underscoring Guarino’s point, the FBI on Tuesday said it had dismantled one of the most powerful gangs to operate in the Caribbean over the past two decades. The Puerto Rico-based drug trafficking group allegedly moved drugs from the Dominican Republic to users in the United States, earning more than $100 million along the way. Twenty-seven suspects were arrested.

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