Saturday, June 2, 2012

More dope comes ashore in Quintana Roo

Cancún International Airport serves as major gateway for Europe-bound cocaine

*Updated Feb. 11, 2013*
Cancún, Quintana Roo --
Famed Charles Manson prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney Vincent Bugliosi wrote an entertaining book three decades ago, detailing a bizarre 1970s murder case on hauntingly remote Palmyra Atoll in the South Pacific. The title, And the Sea Will Tell, might well describe what regularly occurs along Mexico's Caribbean coast, known as the Riviera Maya. I've written about this subject before (Drugs float ashore on Playa del Carmen), and Google tells me that readers remain attracted to it long after it was published. This is an update.

Local militia along the eastern shore of Cozumel island reported the discovery of about a kilogram of cocaine Thursday morning (May 31), sealed tightly in heavy plastic and nylon. The package carried a scorpion seal, which authorities say was designed to identify it to the intended recipients. There can be little doubt about the origin of the drugs. Virtually all cocaine entering Mexico comes from Colombia. Some moves by land, through Honduras and Guatemala. The remainder arrives by sea, delivered by traffickers who approach the coast in high speed boats. But occasionally part of the shipment is lost in transit. Drug trafficking resembles other businesses in that respect.

Drugs headed for the Quintana Roo mainland are often warehoused on Cozumel by local traffickers. Mexican armed forces raid drug houses in Playa del Carmen tourist zone.

The Cancún connection
I've always operated on the assumption that most of the cocaine arriving in Quintana Roo is destined for the United States. American and Mexican authorities generally agree that about 90% of the coke which ultimately ends up on U.S. streets passes thorough Mexico. But local sources say there is increasing evidence that a substantial portion of the white powder is destined for European markets.

On May 8 a yet unidentified 45 year old Mexican woman was arrested at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport, after a direct, nonstop flight from Cancún. Italian customs enforcement agents detained her after discovering 14 kilos of cocaine in a piece of luggage. The drugs were not even in concealed compartments; they had simply been placed beneath clothing and a bath towel. The cocaine had an estimated street value of two million euros.

Por Esto, a peninsular newspaper which covers the Q.R. crime scene, says that Cancún has become a springboard for east-bound drug shipments, and that such could only occur with the knowledge and cooperation of airline and airport workers, working with Mexican federal customs agents. The paper also reports that cocaine shipments direct to the U.S. frequently originate in the resort city.

But not all of the cocaine is getting through the pipeline. On Jan. 24 a young Guadalajara woman was arrested at the Cancún airport with 13.5 keys in her luggage. She was bound for Rome, too. Authorities believe she might have boarded the flight in another country, perhaps Panama. Still, it's proof that drugs slipping through Mexico move east as well as north. It's also further evidence of the very international nature of narcotics trafficking.

Since over 13 million airline passengers pass through Cancún every year, the challenges of intercepting drug shipments are significant, regardless of whether the drug mules have, or do not have, assistance from insiders.

Jan. 17, 2013 - Once again cocaine bricks - weighing about 10 kilos in all - have been found on a remote stretch of beach in Quintana Roo, near the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto (scene of a brutal September 2011 execution). Authorities say the drugs came from Columbia, and were probably part of the typical two ton shipments which regularly arrive along the coast. In their haste traffickers left these carefully wrapped packages behind, or perhaps they fell overboard and then washed ashore. All of the coke is bound for customers in the U.S., according to local officials, via land routes across the Yucatán peninsula. The drugs will be destroyed, but they're a minute fraction of what gets through.

Feb. 11 - Not only does marijuana continue to wash ashore on Cozumel, it's being dried, cured and warehoused there, too.

Apr. 5 - U.S. gunrunners shipwrecked off Riviera Maya coast, Mexican press suggests
Dec. 26 - Cancún Int'l. Airport a "lawless" gateway for drug exports
Sept. 27 - Cancún Airport was key narcotics distribution hub for Beltrán Leyva, Mexico's SEIDO says

Por Esto stories on Quintana Roo narcotics trafficking:
Oct. 23 - Veinte kilos de marihuana en Punta Pájaros, Cozumel
Aug. 27-28 - 80 kilos of marijuana seized at Cozumel drug house, property of Los Pelones
July 24 - Europe-bound drugs pass through Cancún, Mexico City airports
July 13 - Corrupt Aduana at Cancún International Airport
July 12 - Policía Federal intensifica presencia en el AIC
July 11 - Aeropuerto Internacional de Cancún, trampolín de rutas del narcotráfico
July 10 - Amplia estructura criminal en el aeropuerto
July 9 - Investigan a federales
July 1 - Policía Federal, la más denunciada
June 29 - Aeropuertos, en manos del crimen organizado
June 22 - Sigue llegando cocaína
June 11 - Sigue llegando droga:
June 10 - Continúa la oleada de droga:
Revelan forma de enviar droga de Cancún a Europa:
Aeropuerto de Cancún, “trampolín” para la droga:
Sobre Cancún, investigación internacional:
Ruta establecida para el narcotráfico internacional:
May 31 - Cocaína en Punta Pájaros:

More evidence Mexican drug war strategy is working, as violence shifts south:
Honduras "invaded by drug traffickers":
"Almost bankrupt" Guatemala calls for U.S. help:
Guatemalan army joins drug war:

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