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O-7 CDR (Retd.) Eyal Pinko (PHD) Maritime Cyber and Security Senior Consultant. Phd Candidate for Naval Strategy
By Sea and Coast | 04/01/2021

Colombian Navy captures fully submersible sub for drugs transport, possible origin North Korea or Iran / Dr. Eyal Pinko


At the beginning of this month, the Colombian Navy made its latest capture of a submarine from one of the drug barons. The sub was significantly different from the others captured. Unlike its predecessors, this one was fully submersible rather than semi-submersible, and an electric engine powered it.

The submarine was captured near the Cucurrupi River as part of a wide-ranging operation that the Columbian Navy is conducting with the DEA, the US agency responsible for countering drugs and alcohol smuggling and weapons. The sub was operated by 11 people arrested and handed over to the US to face charges.

The submarine has a cylindrical body made from GRP (glass reinforced plastic), and the depth to which it can dive is limited. However, the submarine, which is about 20 meters long, can carry up to six tons for more than 3,000 km. All the previously captured submarines were made of fiberglass. This submarine's features indicate significantly advanced manufacturing capabilities.

The use of submarines for drug smuggling by drug barons from Central and South America started to increase at the beginning of the 2000s. Dozens of submarines that tried to smuggle drugs into the US have been captured. In November 2019, the Spanish Navy captured a semi-submersible near the country's coast as it tried to smuggle three tons of drugs.

Experts from the US estimated that drug barons are operating more than 1,000 submarines at the beginning of this year. Among the organizations operating the midget submarines are the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the ELA (National Liberation Army) from Colombia supported by Venezuela.

A closer look at the midget submarine that was captured indicates a high level of midget submarine manufacturing capability, requiring a shipyard's infrastructure. This kind of submarine is similar in its configuration and the composition of its materials to midget submarines manufactured in North Korea and Iran. It is possible that the submarine was transferred by Iran to the drug barons, even by the tankers that arrived in Venezuela during the last few months from Iran, despite the opposition of the Americans who did nothing to stop them (except make empty threats).

Iran (and Hezbollah) started to operate in South and Central America in the 1980s, using the corrupt regimes in these areas for their economic and operational entrenchment in the region, establishing terror infrastructure, training, fundraising, and acquisition of weapons. The drug infrastructures enable Iran and Hezbollah to generate high income "under the radar" without US capability to impose economic sanctions on their bank accounts.

To realize their plans, Iran and Hezbollah started to invest in the drug-growing fields, which has increased to the extent that they control large drug-growing areas in recent years. Iran and Hezbollah are operating together with the major drug barons of South America, mainly with those of Colombia and with the "Cartel of the Suns" controlled by Venezuela, to manufacture drugs and smuggle them into the US, European countries, and the Middle East

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