The Caribbean is part of a major smuggling route used by Colombian drug lords to transport cocaine to the East Coast market in the U.S. Major drug trafficking routes run through the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, with Jamaica becoming an increasingly significant transshipment point because of its location midway between South America and the United States.
Most of the cocaine smuggled through the Caribbean leaves Colombia using maritime shipping methods ranging from speedboats to cargo freighters. Traffickers also routinely use single or twin-engine aircraft to transport drugs to secret landing strips and to airdrop the product for pickup by waiting land vehicles or maritime vessels. From the Caribbean, cocaine is then smuggled to the Florida coast using speedboats, pleasure craft, and fishing vessels.
Once in South Florida Colombian, Dominican, Haitian, and Jamaican traffickers (or their U.S. agents) ship cocaine to distribution centers elsewhere along the East Coast. The Miami transportation hub supplies distributors in New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Columbus, and Minneapolis.
Enforcement efforts have begun to reveal the scope of these operations. In June 2004, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced the indictment and arrest of Colombian drug trafficker Elias Cobos-Munoz, the reputed head of one of the largest drug trafficking and drug transportation organizations based in Colombia and Jamaica. Munoz and more than 50 other high-level traffickers were arrested in the DEA’s Caribbean Initiative.
The Caribbean Initiative strategically targeted the entire scope of alleged drug and money-laundering operations, from the sources of supply on Colombia’s North Coast, to the transportation cells in the Caribbean corridor, to distribution and financial operations throughout the United States. Two linked operations, “Busted Manatee,” which targeted the Cobos drug organization itself, and “Double Talk,” which targeted Bahamian and Jamaican transshipping organizations, were at the center of the initiative.
As of August 2004, the initiative has resulted in the seizure of 6,539 kilograms of cocaine and more than $25 million in laundered money. Authorities claim that the aggregate gross proceeds generated from the cocaine and other drugs trafficked by this organization exceed $275 million, and it is believed the proceeds of cocaine sales were laundered through financial institutions in New York and elsewhere.