GUATEMALA CITY – U.S. authorities found five tons of cocaine aboard a semi-submersible boat during a joint operation conducted last month by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Guatemalan army off Guatemala’s Pacific coast, a prosecutor said.
“Based on the report we received from the DEA, the submarine was transporting 4,992 kilos of cocaine,” the head of Guatemala’s drug crimes prosecutor’s office, Leonel Ruiz, told Efe.
“That is the only information the DEA has given us, we did not have access to more information,” Ruiz said.
“This is the biggest drug load seized on Guatemalan territory,” the prosecutor said.
The DEA also has not released the identities of the five men aboard the boat to Guatemalan authorities.
“We only know that it’s three Colombians and two Mexicans,” Ruiz said.
DEA agents weighed the drugs at a naval base on Guatemala’s Pacific coast, with the drugs and the five suspects being taken from there to the United States.
The five suspects will be prosecuted on drug charges in the United States.
The small semi-submersible boat was intercepted Oct. 21 some 180 nautical miles off Escuintla province carrying cocaine from South America.
Guatemalan officials initially speculated that the seizure might have totaled 10 tons, which is the maximum capacity of most of these vessels.
The custom-built vessels, similar to a submarine, operate with a significant portion of their hulls below the waterline, making it difficult to detect them.
Colombian drug traffickers started using semi-submersibles in 1993. In that year, Colombia’s navy seized one of the vessels off Providencia Island in the Caribbean.
The semi-submersibles cannot dive like a normal submarine, but they are equipped with a valve that, when opened by the operators, quickly floods and scuttles the vessel, causing it and any drugs on board to quickly sink to an unrecoverable depth.
The crew then jumps overboard and, since no drugs are discovered, they avoid prosecution.
The seizure was one of the largest made this year in Latin America.
A total of 10.7 tons of cocaine, according to official figures, have been seized this year in Guatemala. EFE