The drug industry never sleeps. Some of the feats that drug traffickers pull off to get their product to consumers are nothing short of extraordinary. This one right here though, was a pretty epic fail, deserving of its very own episode in Netflix hit show Narcos. Last week, three men were found by the Colombian Navy, floating in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific using bales of cocaine to stay afloat off the coast of Tumaco, Colombia.
Three drug traffickers who had been floating for hours on packets of waterproofed cocaine were found by Colombian Navy officials.
The bizarre encounter happened 30 miles into the ocean on Colombia’s Pacific coast. The three men, suspected drug traffickers, had been floating among a total of 1,265 kilograms (2,789 lbs) of cocaine hydrochloride for severn hours after their boat was hit by a wave and capsized, according to a statement from the Navy. A spokesman for the coastguard said: “These three people were floating on a material that by its characteristics resembled drugs.”
During a search and rescue operation, officials spotted the castaways and helped them aboard, only to find that they were floating on $50 million dollars worth of cocaine.
Officials spotted the trio floating on packages of different sizes, during a search and rescue operation and promptly went to the rescue. Footage of the incident shows navy officers throwing life belts to the three men from a coastguard ship. Once the men, who were confirmed to be Colombian nationals, and the packages which were waterproofed and weighed over a ton altogether, had been taken safely to shore, chemical tests were carried out.
“The Colombian Armada secured the rescue of three Colombian nationals and seizure of 1,265 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride in waters of the Colombian Pacific” read a tweet by the Colombian Navy.
It was determined that the packages in fact, contained cocaine hydrochloride. The total seizure had a street value, in the United States, of about $50 million. The three unlucky castaways were turned over to prosecutors and are now facing charges for the trafficking, manufacturing and possession of narcotics.
The men and their vessel were “Very possibly…on their way to Central America,” Captain Jorge Maldonado of Colombia’s Task Force against Drug Trafficking told Agence France-Presse. The search continues for a fourth individual whom the men say was with them. He is still missing.
According to the UN, large amounts of Colombian Cocaine is smuggled to the U.S. by sea through Central America and the Caribbean.
According to the UNDOC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), cocaine is typically transported from Colombia to Mexico or Central America by sea and then onwards by land to the United States and Canada, often in container shipments. Colombia remains the main source of the cocaine found, but direct shipments from Peru and the Plurinational State of Bolivia are far more common than in the United States market. A study conducted by the UNDOC found that Colombia is the leading manufacturer of cocaine in the world, while the U.S. is home to the majority of cocaine users.
Just this year NYC authorities secured the largest cocaine seize in history.
Earlier this year, in March, authorities at the Port of New York and New Jersey seized around 3,200 pounds of cocaine, making it the largest cocaine seizure at the port in nearly twenty five years, and the second of all time, authorities say. The drugs, which had an estimated street value of $77 million, were found in a shipping container which entered the U.S. from Buenaventura, Colombia.
In January, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo vowed the US will work with Colombia to decrease production of coca, the plant used to manufacture cocaine, by 50% by 2023.
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Thanks to popular Netflix series that shall remain nameless, Colombia often conjures up images of drug cartel violence and kidnappings or extravagant lifestyles of those same cartels leaders. It was also ravaged by civil war for more than 30 years leaving tourism basically non-existent.
However, within just the last five years, Colombia has seen an increase in foreign travels of more than 45% and it now rates as one of the most visited countries in South America. The country is rapidly establishing itself as a major tourist destination, with Caribbean coastline, rainforest, endangered animals, unique ecosystems and the Andes mountain range. It has something for everyone, and unique experiences as well as unique landscapes. Here are 13 good reasons to visit Colombia.
It’s home to incredible biodiversity
Colombia is considered one of the world’s ‘megadiverse’ countries. The Andes mountain range runs through the country, creating three connecting mountain ranges, with Bogotá situated on a flat savannah within them. The Amazon rainforest covers 35% of Colombia, and this unique rainforest environment is home to many indigenous communities, endangered animals and unique fauna.
And Colombia’s unique landscapes don’t stop at the rainforest. The connecting of two ecosystems occurs in many areas of Colombia, but the most unique is where the Amazon meets the Andes mountains range, creating a unique landscape at the Serranía de la Macarena National Park. Colombia also has two desert areas, La Guajira and Tatacoa. Colombia’s coastlines, one Caribbean and the other Pacific, create unique beaches, backed by snowcapped mountains and deep forest. Colombia is also home to a large páramo ecosystem that helps create rain.
There are countless once in a lifetime experiences
Colombia is full of unique experiences and activities, with the biodiverse environment creating the perfect location for many activities. The choice is almost endless: whitewater rafting, rock climbing, abseiling, bungee jumping, surfing, whale-watching in the Pacific, kitesurfing in the Caribbean, waterskiing, horse riding through the mountains, hiking through the valleys, trekking through the Amazon, cliff jumping, diving on the island of San Andres, snorkelling in the reefs or swimming in endless fresh water lagoons.
The country is known for its warm, friendly, and diverse people
Columbians have a great reputation for friendliness and hospitality. As with all stereotypes, you may want to take this with a pinch of salt – but why not visit and find out for yourself? You may find that you never want to leave.
“It’s ludicrous this place exists and everybody doesn’t want to live here,” uttered by the late Anthony Bourdain while strolling through the streets of Cartagena in 2008.
Diverse and delicious foods – especially when it comes to unique fruits and vegetables
Colombia’s range of climates and altitudes allows farmers to grow a large variety of crops all year round, and the country is home to a number of unique fruits and vegetables. Colombia prides itself on its fresh foods, with restaurants serving home-cooked meals, and many homemade meals and foods available from street stalls or local cafes. Juices are popular, as well as rices, corn arepas and fresh breads.
When you’re there, these are the musts: Bandeja paisa, a traditional lunch of rice, beans, fried egg, avocado, pig belly, beef and chorizo; the Pacific and Andean cuisines in Popayan, UNESCO’s first Creative City of Gastronomy; and West African-influenced dishes of the Palenque people in San Basilio de Palenque, the first free-slave town in the Americas.
A robust and well-preserved national parks system
Colombia has 59 National Natural Parks, which vary in landscape, climate and ecosystems. Many of them offer unique experiences for visitors, such as hikes, water activities and other experiences. All of Colombia’s National Parks are designed to protect the wildlife, ecosystems, culture and architectural heritage of the area.
Unique and exotic wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth
Colombia is a country with a high level of biodiversity; it is home to over 10% of the world’s animal species as well as the highest number of endemic species. Over 1,800 species of bird inhabit Colombia, with over 456 mammal species and large numbers of insects, reptiles and marine creatures. The majority of the country’s wildlife resides within four National Parks – Cocora Valley, Gorgona Island, Serrania de la Macarena and Amacayacu.
Miles and miles of hiking for all skill levels
Colombian National Natural Park’s feature a large number of hiking routes, which vary in both difficulty and distance. Hiking gives visitors the opportunity to experience the country’s unique landscapes and ecosystems, and to see wildlife up close. Hiking trails and guided tours are available throughout the country, with the most popular being in the Valle de Cocora and the hike or trek to the Lost City, an ancient indigenous abandoned village created in 800 AD, or 600 years before Machu Picchu.
Stunning classic and modern architecture
Colombian architecture dates back centuries, with small towns and villages all traditionally having a plaza and cathedrals, many of them hundreds of years old. The architecture of Colombia’s cathedrals is beautiful, detailed and has to be seen to be believed.
While parts of Colombia’s big cities have become marvels of modern architecture, Bogotá, the country’s capital, has a historic centre that is home to many very old buildings on cobbled streets. Colombia combines old and new within its cities, and continually strives to create exquisite new modern buildings, as well as restoring its colonial heritage.
Fun and modern cities full of entertainment
Bogotá (Colombia’s capital) and Medellín (the second-biggest city) are both up-and-coming conurbations in South American and the world. Medellín has created and implemented an extensive Urban Development strategy, which has seen the city completely change over the last 20 years from one of the world’s most violent cities to an award-winning centre of innovation, which is becoming a model for other cites around the world.
Bogotá is also developing rapidly into a major business hub for Latin America, and a large number of multinational companies are creating their Latin American HQs within the business district.
A frenetic obsession with sports
Colombia has been gaining huge success in sports in recent years. The country’s football team is one of the best in the world and is heavily supported throughout the country. When a football match is played the majority of the country stops to watch and offer support. Cycling is another popular sport, with large numbers of Colombians taking to the streets and countryside to take part in long-distance rides or the city’s ciclovía events.
Thousands of years of recorded history
Colombia’s history dates back for many centuries, with Pre-Colombian indigenous communities establishing themselves all over the country and creating many of the country’s towns and cities. Colombia has been heavily influenced by its natives, as well as by the Spanish, French and British, with many countries trying and failing to take control of the country from the Spanish.
Colombia is now turning a corner from its history of the last 50 years. Civil war has torn through the country, but in 2016 a peace agreement was signed and implemented, creating at last a positive and sustainable future for the country.
Hundreds of Indigenous cultures
Indigenous natives live within many areas of Colombia, including the Amazon, Pacific Coast and La Guajira. Indigenous Colombians and Afro-Colombians strive to keep their traditions alive, with traditional foods, music, culture and events. Colombia has been predominately influenced by its indigenous communities and heritage through music, with many sounds and rhythms originating from Africa and being brought to Colombia along with descendants of Afro-Colombians.
Greta Thunberg has been gaining international fame as the face of youth climate activism, making deeply moving speeches in front of both massive crowds and the world’s most powerful leaders. Thunberg is not the only jovencit@ fighting for environmental justice—children and teenagers all across the globe are (and have been) purporting the same message for years. Thunberg’s rising fame has catapulted this message to the mainstream media, garnering the attention it so desperately deserves. Another awesome kid at the forefront of this movement? Colombia’s Francisco Javier Vera, a 10-year-old activist calling on the Colombian government to enact more effective climate legislation in the immediate future.
On December 20, Vera led a dozen other niños in a march of protest against government inaction on the issue of climate change. Vera is not only protesting and raising awareness through a wide range of platforms—he recently addressed the Colombian Senate with an impassioned speech calling for conscious environmental action at the government level.
He addressed the officials in Spanish, but the English translation reads:
“Today, I came to represent my group Guardianes Por La Vida to ask everyone to be conscious of the damage we’ve caused the environment, you and me, the damage we’ve caused. I ask you, as senators of the republic . . . legislate for our lives. For example, go against fracking campaigns, animal testing, single-use plastic, and the mistreatment of animals. We are, in my opinion, unfairly tasked as children to fight for our planet.”
Vera also urged the Colombian Senate to vote against a major tax reform bill, claiming that it disrespects and would ultimately harm the rural populations of Colombia. These populations are often the most susceptible to the effects of natural disasters, as well as the most likely to suffer without resources in the aftermath of a severe storm.
Over the past few years, the Colombian government has worked to improve climate disaster prevention by relocating high-risk neighborhoods, constructing retaining walls in areas vulnerable to landslides and floods, and reducing annual deforestation. Indeed, as climate change continues to evolve, populations on the deforested slopes of the Andes Mountains—as well as those placed along riverbeds—are most at risk for severe floods and avalanches. Cities in the Andean country have a cumulative population of about 49 million people, all of whom are in constant danger of potentially devastating climate events.
Luis Gilberto Murillo, a former mining engineer who served as Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development from 2016 to 2018, told Reuters in 2017 that “Colombia is very vulnerable to phenomena of extreme climate variability and climate change.” He added that around 500 municipalities are constantly on medium or alert for flood and landslide risks.
“We have to move toward a culture of prevention and response to early warnings. Close to 12 million people are in high-risk conditions,” said Murillo.
In 2017, Colombia unveiled the country’s National Climate Change Policy, which aimed to expand existing programs that addressed the risks of climate change, from disaster management plans to financial protection plans to strategies for emissions reduction. Twenty-three separate regions proposed their own plans for climate change, and all state capitals included climate change on their respective development plans. The country committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030, acknowledging that another 10% cut could be achieved with international support.
These efforts may not prove to be enough. Many scientists are reassessing their original estimates about the rate at which climate change would unfold—few people thought that the effects of our warming planet would arrive so quickly, and the unexpected nature (not to mention the urgency) of this situation is not lost on the Earth’s youth.
“There is little time left. For our home to not reach its end we need to help it, to look after it, and to love it,” said Vera. “There’s no Plan B. This is the only planet in the universe that sustains life, and if it’s the only one and it comes to an end? Then life ends.”
Damn, boy. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, but this sounds so wise coming from the mouth of a young child. And when you see a 10-year-old kid advocating for legislative action so that he and his peers can live long, fruitful lives on a beautiful and abundant planet, doesn’t it make you wonder what the heck you were doing when you were 10? If you’re a millennial who grew up in the 90s or the aughts, you were blessed with the innocence—the ignorance—of the times, and you had the luxury of ignoring the terrors of our imminent climate crisis. Today’s kids aren’t so lucky, and they deserve all the support they can get as they fight for their right to a clean and healthy Earth.