Narco-sub: How drug smugglers are using submarines to smuggle cocaine into Spain

Police in Spain have seized a submarine carrying cocaine off the coast of the northwest Galicia region which had arrived from South America.

Narco-sub: How drug smugglers are using submarines to smuggle cocaine into Spain
Photos: AFP

Two Ecuadorian men were arrested as part of the operation Sunday in the seaside town of Cangas near the border with Portugal, a spokesman for the central government's representative in Galicia said.

“A diver managed to enter the submarine on Monday and removed a bundle of cocaine from inside,” he told AFP.

Police were on Monday trying to refloat the vessel and they will not be able to determine the total amount of drugs on board until they have done so, he added.

But a source close to the investigation told AFP the submarine was “likely” transporting “several tonnes (of cocaine) but this is just an estimate”.    

Spanish media said the vessel was carrying over three tonnes (6,600 pounds) of cocaine from Colombia.

Guardia Civil officers work to refloat the submarine. Photo: AFP

The submarine, about 20 metres (65 feet) long, came from South America, another source close to the investigation said without specifying which country the vessel departed from.   

“It is not the first time but we don't see this every day” in Europe, the source added.

Drug traffickers, especially from Colombia, have been caught using submarines to transport cocaine into Mexico, and from there into the United States.

The gangs often pay unemployed engineers desperate for money to design and make the submarines, said Wilder Alejandro Sanchez, a defence and geopolitics analyst at a US-based think-tank, the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC).

Most are only semisubmersible — a ship partially submerged that cannot fully dive like a submarine — but some are able to go 30 metres under water, he added.

“They are becoming more and more modern and complex,” he told AFP.    

In September the US Coast Guard, with the aid of the Colombian navy, intercepted a submarine carrying over five tonnes of cocaine off the coast of South America.

Galicia, one of Spain's poorest regions, is a top entry point for cocaine into Europe. A maze of coves, caves and inlets dot its rugged coastline, making it a smuggler's paradise.

Spain accounted for the second-highest proportion of cocaine seizures in the European Union last year after Belgium, with 41 tonnes apprehended.

READ MORE:  Police in Spain discover huge weed plantation hidden in pine forests of Aragon

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Which Spanish regions are likely to allow people to remove their masks outdoors?

As Spain's vaccine campaign gains speed and the infection rate drops, there are indications that facemasks will very soon no longer be compulsory outdoors in several Spanish regions.

Which Spanish regions are likely to allow people to remove masks outdoors?

Spain’s Health Emergencies chief Fernando Simón said at a recent press conference that he is hopeful about relaxing the rule about the use of masks in outdoor spaces, as long as the safety distance of 1.5 meters can be guaranteed.

“It is very possible that in a few days the use of a mask outdoors can be reduced. Of course, always guaranteeing that the risks are decreasing,” he said.

However, Simón also added that “reducing one measure does not mean that the same should be done with all measures”. In addition, he asked citizens to go “step by step and be careful until we see the effects that mean we can relax the restrictions”.

Although this will be decided in the next few days Simón does not want anyone to “fall into false assurances”.

Face masks have been compulsory in public in Spain since May 21st 2020, and since March of this year, you are required to wear them in almost all indoor and outdoor settings, even if you’re sticking to the safety distance, unless the activity is incompatible with mask-wearing such as eating, drinking, sunbathing, running etc. 

Regions that could possibly relax restrictions on the use of masks outdoors

If the mask restrictions are relaxed by the government and the health authorities, the regions that could already qualify because of their low-to-medium risk epidemiological situations include Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla La-Mancha, Extremadura, the Valencian region, Murcia, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

Which regions are in favour of the move?

Both Catalonia and Galicia have said that they would be in favour of dropping the use of masks outdoors.

The Catalan government was one of the first regions to open the discussion on relaxing the use of masks outdoors.

According to Catalan Regional Health Secretary MarcRamentol, the Catalan government considers that with at least 30 percent of the population fully vaccinated and more than half of the population having received at least one dose, the matter is worth discussing. 

Not having to wear a mask outdoors will help the summer “feel more like 2019 than that of 2020”, said Ramentol.

President of the Xunta of Galicia Alberto Núñez Feijoo, said last week that he expects the use of masks outdoors will be abolished in July, however on Tuesday, May 18th at the Hotusa Group Tourism Innovation Forum in Madrid, he insisted that it is only “a matter of weeks”.

Although Valencia currently still has some strict rules in place, Regional President Ximo Puig has stated that he is in favour of the mask not being compulsory in open spaces. “We know that in open spaces there is a much lower possibility of contagion and I have been supporting this for a long time – it is not necessary to use the mask in some open spaces, natural spaces or on the beaches,” he said.

Which regions want to keep making masks compulsory in outdoor spaces

Regional authorities in Madrid and the Basque Country, the regions which the highest infection rates in Spain have criticised the national government’s position regarding masks, arguing that’s it’s too soon for masks to no longer be obligatory outdoors.

Andalusia is also against the proposal. Jesús Aguirre, Minister of Health and Families in Adalusia, has said that it would be a mistake since the mask is “the most powerful weapon” with which we have to avoid possible infections within the region.