Cocaine Submarines Producer’s Diary Pt. 2 – Embedded in Mangroves

Inside Cocaine Submarines
Premieres Sunday January 10 10P et/pt

Producer’s Diary
Southwest Colombia. On a river tributary in remote mangroves near the Equadoran border. Saturday June 12, 2009.

By Steven Hoggard

This region is larger than the state of Connecticut and only has one paved road. It’s endless mangroves are part of some 10,000 miles of tributary and coastline along Colombia’s western Pacific coast… It is here that most drug subs are built and launched.

I need a shower – have been wearing the same pants for four days and am on a river patrol with Colombian Marines… Each armored gunboat boasts twin 250 HP engines. These things can MOVE. And each of them sport bullet strikes and shrapnel damage from previous missions. The mission we’re now on reminds me of the river patrol scenes from “Apocalypse Now.” Mounted machine guns, the .50 caliber type in front – and mechanized grenade launchers ring each boat. After an hour twisting and turning through a maze of mangrove tributaries and canals we finally find our target destination and wade ashore (up to my waist in water and river silt – my boots are nearly sucked off). The Marines are here to search a small island in FARC territory.

The mangrove swamps conceal drug labs and intricate drug sub shipyards. Our DEA pal Nestor’s busted a few of them and showed us photos of the wooden walkways, huge marine engines, block and tackle and slew of DeWalt tools (the kind you can find in Home Depot! Nestor reminds us) that the bad guys drag into this wilderness to make these vessels – some of which are 100 feet long with a range of over 3000 miles. We’re in one of the most hard-to-reach places on Earth. And people build million-dollar hand-made submarines in this jungle. Crazy. Amazing what hundreds of millions of dollars incentive (the value of cocaine smuggled by each sub) can do!

This is ground zero for drug subs. They start their journeys in places like this (two will soon be found near here). Once construction is complete (it costs up to a million bucks to build each of them) – they wait for a dark night, no moon, bad weather and high tide… Load the subs up with something like a quarter-billion dollars worth of cocaine on them — and push them into the tide. The subs head down the mangroves, into the river and on out to the Pacific for their journey north…

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