GUATEMALA CITY – The Guatemalan military intercepted a semi-submersible carrying five tons of cocaine and captured four Colombian nationals, a defense ministry spokesman said.
Col. Byron Gutierrez said at a press conference that the vessel was intercepted last Friday in Pacific waters off the coast of the southern province of Escuintla.
When it was intercepted by units of the Guatemalan navy and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration its crew activated special mechanisms and scuttled the sub, he said.
But the navy and DEA personnel managed to recover the submersible without any casualties, he added.
Gutierrez said that authorities estimated that the vessel was transporting at least five tons of cocaine.
The four arrested men, the submersible and the drug, were turned over the United States in accord with a bilateral cooperation treaty on illicit drug trafficking, the spokesman said.
The cocaine’s final destination was the United States, he said.
In October 2009, another submersible was stopped in international waters near Guatemala, but it remained in the hands of the United States and the quantity of drugs being transported on it was never officially made known.
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, rapidly 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. EFE