Mexican drug cartels now trafficking cocaine directly from South America, Colombian police say

File photo of police guarding packages of cocaine, totaling 2.9 tons, seized in northern Colombia, on June 2006.

File photo of police guarding packages of cocaine, totaling 2.9 tons, seized in northern Colombia, on June 2006.  (ap)

Colombia’s anti-narcotics director said that Mexico’s notorious drug cartels have taken a more active role in the production of cocaine and have made incursions into the South American nation.

It is known that Mexican cartels have for years had ties to local cocaine producers in Colombia, but this is the first time that a major Colombian official has admitted to the presence of active foreign traffickers in the country.

“We have discovered that there are Mexican cartels which have arrived in Colombia basically to negotiate and transport the drug themselves," said General Ricardo Restrepo of the national police, according to Reuters. “This gives them better returns and means Colombian traffickers are at less risk of being captured or caught in foreign judicial investigations."

While Restrepo did not mention specifically which cartels had made inroads into the country, Colombia has in the past reported the arrests of alleged members of the Sinaloa and the Zetas cartels, along with seizures of drugs shipments that were presumably destined for Mexico.

It was reported in the Colombian media last March that the Sinaloa cartel had bought up a number of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) drug trafficking “franchises.” An anonymous official told the Colombian daily El Tiempo that a number of mid-level FARC commanders have sold off their pieces of the drug trade in anticipation of the continuing peace negotiations between the guerrilla group and the Colombian government, which are taking place in Havana. 

Under the agreement, Sinaloa would own and operate cocaine production facilities in South America.

Crackdowns by Colombian authorities have forced the Mexican drug trafficking organization to take a more hands-on approach in the Andean nation. The Sinaloa cartel is reportedly operating processing labs near the border with Ecuador, in the departments of Antioquia, Córdoba and in Norte de Santander, near the country’s border with Venezuela.

Despite Peru displacing it as the top coca producing nation in the world, Colombia still has an output of 290 tons of cocaine per year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and leftist rebel groups like the FARC and crime rings made up of former right-wing paramilitaries allegedly control the majority of the trade within the country.

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