The latest invention by drug traffickers to shield their shipments to the United States has been so successful that the number of submarine incidents has increased considerably. In 2018 there were 35 and last year the number exceeded 36. However, that figure is only the tip of the iceberg, as for every vessel stopped many more make it through, so there is no sign that losses are at a level that will deter criminals.

The application of this technology dates back to 2006 when the first narco-submarines were discovered: the exhaust pipe and the cabin could be seen a few meters out of the water. But 13 years have been excellent for new developments. On January 2, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection plane intercepted two very narrow drug-submarine cases known as Vessels. This has been a common style of narco-submarine for some years.

In February, Panamanian and Colombian forces intercepted a particularly large sub. It had two internal engines capable of carrying the load of five tons of cocaine on board, about 5-8 times the typical. The authorities found that semi-submersibles are usually painted blue to blend in with the water and can usually only be detected with the help of aircraft. This type of transport is designed to sink and destroy evidence quickly.

According to the testimony of a former Colombian crew member, in semi-submersibles, you can barely breathe and they are afraid to surface so as not to be identified; one of their brothers even died on such a trip from a heart attack due to sea pressure and heat. The crew of these boats is mostly fishermen, who usually earn USD 200 a month.

Mexico: the sea route

An analysis by U.S. security experts at Stratfor revealed that for the past 10 years at least 27 constant routes have been identified in Mexico for the transfer of drugs that are distributed to McAllen, Del Rio, and Laredo, Texas, via Tampico, where one of the main distribution centers for cocaine and marijuana from Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela is also located.

As well as seven international routes from which drugs and their precursors arrive via China, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, and which cross Mexican borders mainly through Cancun, Veracruz, Mexico City, Acapulco, and Jalisco. It is observed that the drugs with the most routes are cocaine and ephedrine, while marijuana is concentrated in only two areas. It is also evident from the analysis that all the routes traced by the Mexican cartels lead to the United States.

According to the map, one of the areas disputed by the drug cartels is located in the southeast, and includes Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas, and an area of Oaxaca, which goes from Santa Maria Chimalapa to Santiago Zacatepec and from there to the Pacific coast; it is mainly cocaine brought from Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil that enters through Cancun.