Cocaine Smugglers in Puerto Rico Using Same Methods as Mexican Cartels

AP Photo
The Associated Press

On October 7, the US Department of Justice announced the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) had dismantled a drug trafficking organization responsible for the transportation of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and drug money between Puerto Rico and the Continental United States. This organization was using drug mules to smuggle kilograms of cocaine hidden in suitcases on airplanes.

Although the traffickers were operating in the Caribbean and along the East Coast, the smuggling methodology mirrors that being used by Mexican drug cartels using mules to transport cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine across the southwest border. According to the US Attorney’s Office press release, this organization vacuum sealed the Florida-bound cocaine and pressed it into the approximate width of a magazine before wrapping it in carbon paper. The suitcases were altered to contain a hidden compartment in the bottom, where the kilograms of cocaine were concealed. Mexican traffickers will usually shape drug loads to fit inside hidden compartments in vehicles when moving them through southwest border ports of entry.

This was not the only similarity:

“The organization instructed the mules on how to handle law enforcement in the event that they were arrested for smuggling. The organization’s leadership would provide the mules with a story to tell law enforcement to lead them in the wrong direction and away from the organization. The organization also utilized intimidation and threats of violence to prevent the mules from cooperating with law enforcement.”

In recent years, Mexican cartels have increased their use of “forced mules” to reduce their exposure to law enforcement, threatening the mules’ family members in both Mexico and the US to get them to comply with their instructions. This bust further demonstrates that drug smuggling methodology is not limited to one organization or geographic area, if only for the reason that these tactics are effective.

Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about cross-border issues in her latest book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.