Engineer Allegedly Offered Drug Smugglers Remote-Controlled Semi- Submersibles

By Matthew Harwood

A Washington Post story on drug smuggling using self-propelled semi-submersibles (SPSSs) from Saturday provides more evidence that narcotraffickers are looking to build remote-controlled SPSSs to smuggle drugs risk-free from Colombia into the United States.

Last August, two men were arrested by Colombian authorities for allegedly offering their services to Mexican drug smugglers.

Last August, Colombian authorities arrested Gustavo Adolfo de Jesús García, alias "The Engineer," the alleged mastermind of a sub-building syndicate, and Lope Antonio López, known as "El Gringo," accused of brokering deals with Mexican cartels eager to move tons of cocaine to Mexico via submersibles.

García and López, authorities said, were focused on the manufacturing side of the business, building bigger, stealthier, sleeker vessels. Colombian police say the men were also offering something new -- drone subs operated by remote control.

As the Post and Security Management recently reported in its June cover story, "Drug War's Rough Waters," the United States has responded to the sudden explosion in the use of SPSSs to smuggle drugs by outlawing the use of unregistered SPSSs that do not fly a national flag. Previously, SPSS crews detected by U.S. authorities would sink their vessel, thereby destroying the evidence of any drug smuggling and turning themselves into search and rescues. But now, SPSS crews that sink their vessels face 15 years in prison or a fine of $1 million or both upon capture. 

The increased interest in remote-controlled SPSSs is one more indication that the constant technological arms race between the United States and narcotraffickers in the drug war won't end anytime soon.

♦ Photo by U.S. Coast Guard



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