This weekend in a jungle estuary, the DEA and local Ecuadorian police seized a prototype narco sub that may be the most sophisticated one yet. Complete with air conditioning and periscope, this 100 foot creation would have carried a more cocaine tonnage than any previously captured narco sub. To give you a perspective on the resourcefulness of these outlaws, consider this. A U.S. Navy Virginia Class attack submarine will run around $2.8 billion. But a drug lord in Cartagena would make you one like this for under $1 million.
To avoid any possibility of detection, the Serpicos of Down South construct these subs deep in the jungle of Colombia and Ecuador. No contractor involved has ever seen a real submarine. And many of the workers have never even seen the ocean! Truly ingenious, albeit quite illegal. Although no one really knows the true stats, about 40 of these ad hoc subs make it to the Mexican coast each year in a claustrophobic 2000 mile odyssey. A drug mule gets paid $500 to captain this vessel carrying 10 tons of snow, and 1500 gallons of diesel.
Normally, drug smuggling has no impact on my life. But the fact is, these boats are making surfing more difficult for those of us in Southern California. That's right. They are screwing up the surf culture. In the past, drug smuggling was an aviation thing, but the DEA became pretty effective at halting all the air lifts. After the clever cocaine capitalists figured the nautical route to the Baja, the Mexican border area has become a war zone among clashing drug titans. Sadly, there are hundreds of killings around Tijuana over cocaine smuggling. As a result, fewer surfers are willing to drive through the Baja.
Check out this video piece by Vice on the subject.