Cocaine production in Colombia is on the rise, and so are accidents involving light aircraft transporting the drug into Mexico.
Two planes that departed the South American country carrying cocaine have crashed in Quintana Roo during the past four months while another was abandoned after landing without authorization at the airport in the state capital, Chetumal.
Most recently, a Cessna light aircraft carrying one and a half tonnes of cocaine crashed on March 10 in El Cedral, a community in the municipality of Othón P. Blanco, which borders Belize.
The plane reportedly skidded along the ground for 100 meters before hitting a tree. A Colombian man died in the accident, while a Sinaloa man who survived was arrested.
The accident followed the crash of a similar plane carrying two tonnes of cocaine in the Othón P. Blanco community of Río Verde last November.
On January 1, two Colombian nationals disembarked from an aircraft after landing in Chetumal and fled, leaving one and a half tonnes of cocaine inside the plane.
Chetumal security official Adrián Sánchez said the plane is believed to have traveled to Mexico from Colombia and that its two crew members abandoned it because it had run out of fuel.
“They preferred to take the risk of being arrested rather than dying in a crash in the jungle as has occurred in other cases,” he said.
According to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in September, 171,000 hectares of land in Colombia were used to grow the coca plant in 2017, an increase of 25,000 hectares or 17% over the year before.
The same report estimated that enough coca was grown to produce 1,379 tonnes of cocaine, up 31% over 2016.
Javier Oliva, a researcher and professor at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) who specializes in security and intelligence issues, told the newspaper Milenio that drug cartels are desperate to cash in on the high cocaine production levels by getting their product to the United States.
The light plane accidents are a result of that desperation, he contended.
Oliva also provided an analysis of the United Nations statistics.
“The conclusions that we can take away from this astonishing data are firstly, consumption of the drug has increased; secondly . . . the profits of Colombian criminal groups and the organizations where the goods pass through have also gone up; and thirdly . . . [efforts] to eradicate and contain production of coca leaves [in Colombia] are obviously a failure,” he said.
While the use of planes to transport cocaine out of Colombia appears to be on the rise, the drug is more commonly sent to Mexico by sea before continuing its journey to the lucrative United States market by land.
The amount of cocaine shipped northbound by sea through Mexican waters almost tripled between 2014 and 2017, according to estimates by the United States Coast Guard.
Source: Milenio (sp)