Home / News  / “Cocaine Cowboys” Make a Comeback in Puerto Rico

“Cocaine Cowboys” Make a Comeback in Puerto Rico

Coast Guard image of seizing a drug smuggling speed boat off of Puerto Rican coast
In recent months and years cocaine has been seized in Puerto Rico

Cocaine in recent years has become synonymous with Puerto Rico and surrounding Caribbean Islands (photo courtesy of hispanicallyspeakingnews.com)

As tensions tighten along the U.S. Mexican border due to continued violence among drug cartels, Venezuela and Colombia drug traffickers have started looking for new ways to import cocaine into the country.

Reuters reported that a 1.8 ton cocaine shipment worth an estimated 50 million dollars, destined for US soil was seized off the coast of Puerto Rico.

However, the New York Times reported the amount to be 1,280 kilograms and defined it’s worth at about 37 million on the street.

Bundles of cocaine seized by coast guard worth estimated 50 million

1.8 ton shipment of cocaine seized by the Coast Guard off the coast of Puerto Rico and has a estimated street value of 50 million(article.wn.com)

A Coast Guard helicopter chased a 35-foot speedboat as it raced north.

The Coast Guard then let loose a series of warning shots as the boat continued on until a final shot rang out and the crew on the chopper shot out one of its engines.

A portion of the drugs tossed into the Caribbean Sea by smugglers was recovered. Two men from the Dominican Republic were arrested and a third man jumped overboard and was never found.

“We have seized more than three tons of cocaine over the last month,” said Angel Melendez, head of U.S.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations office in San Juan.

This was one of many high-profile drug haul arrests playing in out and around Puerto Rico and the nearby Caribbean Islands. This copycat of a trail has been seen before in the 1980’s and 1990’s in the heyday of Colombia’s Medellin cartel and the “cocaine cowboys”.

“The Cocaine Cowboys” brought a seemingly endless supply of drugs flowing from this region into Miami.

Roughly 14 percent of U.S. bound cocaine shipments, about 42 tons, trafficked through the Caribbean in the first six months of 2013.

As of late, ICE has had their hands full.

This past April, a boat made landfall in Puerto Rico. The passengers fled, but agents were able to allocate over 1,530 kilograms of cocaine on the boat. Days earlier another boatload containing over 1,774 kilograms of cocaine was seized.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge of San Juan, Vito S. Guarino, also a veteran of the 1980 Caribbean-Miami drug war stated:

“You are seeing 1,200 keys, 1,000 keys,” said Guarino. “That’s an increase from 5 to 15 and 20 percent. Wow. What does that say? It increased fourfold. It also shows the confidence they have to get the dope in. They send 1,200 keys, and they still have a good shot to get it in.”

Foxnewslatino has reported that about 18 percent of the drugs that pass through the Caribbean remain in Puerto Rico.

In a recent interview with EFE, Jose Caldero, the island’s police chief, added that 70 percent of the murders on the island are linked to drugs.

In 2011 alone, Puerto Rican authorities logged 1,135 murders, roughly six times the national average.

Even though crime rates have dipped since then, many Puerto Ricans say they still feel under siege and destabilized by violence.



Matt Robertson obtained a BA in History from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an MA in Museum Studies from Morgan State University in Baltimore. Robertson's a major sports enthusiast, avid golfer, passionate Jets fan and enjoys surfing. He's also a talented barista. Follow him on Facebook/MattRobertson and on Instagram @gingerbeardedbarista.

Review overview