#NarcoFiles: FARC dissidents ally with Brazilian and Galician drug traffickers to bring cocaine to Europe in submarines

Víctor Méndez (adaptation) / Allan de Abreu, Eduardo Goulard and Vinicius Madureira (PIAUÍ AND UOL)

Vaupés, also known as Uaupés in Portuguese, is a river with dark and powerful waters that originates in Colombia, It meanders through the Amazon and empties into the Negro River, in Brazilian territory. Along its banks and those of its twin, Solimões, which runs in parallel, coexist 24 indigenous ethnic groups, including the Karapanãs and the Makunas, with cocaine traffickers, most of them dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). And direct partners of Galician drug traffickers, some installed in South America to close deals, such as those that become long voyages aboard narco-submarines.

This is how he reveals it NarcoFiles, an international investigation led by the OCCRP consortium with the participation of more than 40 media outlets from around the world, infoLibre and Narcodiario in Spain, from a massive leak from the Colombian Attorney General’s Office.

The border between Colombia and Brazil is part of a lucrative international drug trafficking route. The operation was the subject of a confidential investigation by the United States Government and the Colombian Army that detailed, for the first time, how one of these criminal groups works to supply the PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital) tons of cocaine by air and river through the Vaupés. Speedboats loaded with cocaine travel along the Vaupés and Solimões to their mouth in Manaus, the Brazilian gateway to the Amazon. And they end up on the coasts of Galicia.

Cocaine seized in Galicia that was loaded in the Amazon / R. Fariña-Diario de Pontevedra

The merchandise from the narco-submarine found in Aldán (Pontevedra), in November 2019, It was loaded onto boats in Leticia, in the Colombian Amazon. That of the semi-submersible intercepted in Vilaxoán (also in Pontevedra), last March, is in the full investigation phase, but a solid line points to the Amazon route detailed in the NarcoFiles.

Piauí and UOL, two of the most prominent media outlets in Brazil and members of NarcoFiles, analyzed the documents that show the path followed by cocaine that leaves Colombia, passes through Manaus, crosses the Caribbean and ends up in the hands of consumers in Europe. In the case of Che, the narco-submarine found in Aldán, the drugs loaded in Leticia traveled through Solimões and was transferred to the submersible near Santarém, a large Brazilian town located downstream. In the Brazilian Amazon jungle itself, and not in Colombia, the submarine was built. The drugs did leave Colombian territory.

Patrol in the region / Marizilda Cruppé

The investigation began in 2020, based on information transmitted to the Colombian Army and the Brazilian Federal Police by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the American police specialized in the fight against drug trafficking. The Americans drew attention to a cocaine buying and selling scheme in the region known as Cabeza de Perro, in the extreme northwest of Brazil, where the country borders Colombia and Venezuela. The place got its nickname because, on maps, its shape resembles a dog with its mouth open.

A former paramilitary nicknamed ‘Quality’

According to preliminary information provided by the Americans, the person who served as a bridge between the FARC dissidents and the criminals of the Primeiro Comando da Capital was a Colombian named Nelson Jaramillo Quiceño, better known as Calidad. It was his responsibility to guarantee that Colombian criminals, based in the departments of Guaviare and Vaupés, could pass batches of cocaine to Brazilian criminals from Manaus and São Gabriel da Cachoeira, ensuring its prior passage before their departure to Europe.

Born in San José del Guaviare, 400 kilometers from the capital Bogotá, Calidad was part of a group of paramilitaries that operated in southern Colombia in the early 2000s. They were militias fighting the FARC guerrilla in the jungle. In 2003, Calidad was investigated for his involvement in the murder of four people, including a teenager, but he was eventually acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Police in the region / Marizilda Cruppé

Front number 1 controls the production and trafficking of cocaine in the departments of Meta, Guaviare and Vaupés, a territory that covers 6,700 hectares planted with coca leaves, according to the most recent report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Drugs. Crime (Unodc). Intelligence reports from the Colombian Army reveal that the cocaine produced by the group was transported in boats across 520 kilometers between the cities of Miraflores and Mitú, in Colombia. From there, the drugs are sent to Manaus by plane of Aerovías Regional del Oriente (ARO), an air taxi company that has a fleet of nine devices.

A boat on the river / Marizilda Cruppé

The military suspects that smaller batches of drugs were taken by boats that traveled the Solimões, Vaupés and Negro rivers to Manaus, hidden in licit shipments. From that area, the drugs leave on planes to different shuttles in the country, and on boats, including narco-submarines, to the Atlantic. almost always heading to Europe.

An agent on the ground / Marizilda Cruppé

The Solimões is the main entry point for cocaine that reaches Brazil through the Amazon, according to the Federal Police. In recent years, this route has been dominated by the Red Command, which forced the rival faction of the PCC to look for alternative routes. Both Brazilian criminal groups already have stable offices in Spain and a presence in Galicia and Portugal. The Report of the Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office mentions as one of its issues of concern “the route that connects South America with the Canary Islands with the presence of the Brazilian PCC in the islands”.

This information is part of NarcoFiles: The New Criminal Order, an international journalistic investigation into global organized crime, its innovations, its tentacles and those who fight it. The project originated with an unprecedented leak of emails from the Colombian Attorney General’s Office. Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Latin American Center for Journalistic Investigation (CLIP), Vorágine and Cerosetenta / 070 accessed the data through two organizations: Distributed Denial of Secrets and Enlace Hacktivista. They then shared the material with more than 40 media outlets, including infoLibre and Narcodiario in Spain. Journalists from 23 countries worked on the investigations, mainly in Latin America, but also in Europe and the United States. Using clues found in the leaked data, journalists have produced dozens of articles that reveal the multiple ways in which organized crime groups evolve, expand and experiment in the modern world, leaving new victims in their wake.

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