The Caribbean Basin’s ‘Northern Triangle’

October 26, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo



Ricardo Swire

The Caribbean Basin extends from Florida westward along the Gulf coast, meandering south along the Mexican coast via Central America. The Basin extends eastward, across the northern coast of South America, a geopolitical region that includes the West Indies archipelago. The ongoing “Drug War” moved north from Colombia, then South from Mexico to Central America.

After civil wars in the “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, US decision makers quickly deported large numbers of Central American gang members, a political move that exported Los Angeles style gang culture to Central American communities. MS15 and other powerful gangs, promising a false sense of security, evolved to fill power vacuums.

The Northern Triangle nickname was coined for commercial purposes, an arrangement rooted in the Tuesday May 12th 1992 Free Trade Agreement, signed in Nueva Ocotepeque, Honduras. Today the epithet is a synonym for brutal violence. Records tabulated that in three years, forty-eight thousand, nine hundred and forty-seven Northern Triangle residents were murdered. Based on comparative statistics national security professionals rate the area the most violent worldwide.

Since Saturday July 17th 1971, when the US president of the day declared War on Drugs, Caribbean Basin national security and law enforcement elements have come to a crossroads. Either ignore violence, overflowing mass incarcerations and depleted national budgets, or continue down a path that has failed to meet public aspirations; a direction which already destabilized and militarized neighboring Latin America.

The history of US/Latin America relations denoted reluctant acceptance of the region’s autonomy. Latin Americans themselves recognized they too were responsible for internal division and foreign intervention. The US’ regional diversion is coded in “Plan Central America” legislation. On Saturday September 17th 2016 the US President named five Central American countries as major hubs for drug transportation from South America.

The official declaration confirmed the US Drug War expansion to Central America. Over a four year period Washington spent more than US$100 million on advanced equipment for Central American military and police forces. The US State Department’s International Narcotics Control & Law Enforcement Program redirected one large amount towards “police specific training and equipment,” the remainder divided between three programs.

The Economic Support Fund (ESF) and the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining & Related Program (NADRP) are two counter-terrorism plans that received US$51 million. US$22 million was directed to “Foreign Military Financing,” a Pentagon program that guarantees loans to qualified international applicants acquiring US military weapons and training.



Costa Rica prepares to host seven thousand US Marines indefinitely, evidence Costa Rica is the favored staging ground for US Drug War development in Central America. Costa Rica is considered the weakest link in the Central America security chain. Drug shipments originate in Panama, travel up the Pan-American Highway through Costa Rica. Using remote crossings consignments arrive in Nicaragua, Puntarenas port a favored stopover for drug shipments arriving by sea.

Local law enforcement reports chronicled the occasion a drug trafficking operation, managed by a family of three, dismantled by Drug Control Police (PCD) officers in Playas del Coco. One recognized Central American trafficking trend transports cocaine from Panama to the Pan American Highway through Costa Rica. Consignments enter Nicaragua via isolated crossings. Maritime shipments utilize Puntarenas port’s docking facilities. Two years ago Costa Rica’s Public Security Ministry recorded twenty-one metric tons of captured cocaine, the largest recorded single cocaine seizure in Central America.

Costa Rica Coast Guard resources take advantage of five encrypted Harris military communication radios, care of the US government. The technology connects Costa Rican maritime law enforcers to USCG/Navy ships, US Department of Defence (DOD) special agents and Central American counterparts. The ten thermal night vision cameras, other US provided equipment, installation and training are together valued at US$100,000.

Such capability was needed when a combined Costa Rican Fuerza Publica, Border Police and National Coast Guard Service section detained four suspicious men, outfitted in camouflage clothing. The detainees were armed with shotguns, revolvers and Chinese version AK-47 assault rifles. Electronic intelligence queries verified two of the men were Nicaraguans, part of a drug smuggling network waiting on the beach for an incoming waterborne consignment.

The US government finances its Drug War expansion through the Central American Regional Security Initiative, a process that incurs increased costs of more than thirty fold. Statistics record in excess of forty thousand tons of marijuana, eight hundred tons of cocaine and five hundred tons of heroin illegally handled in Central America yearly. A Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) allotment financed Central America’s domestic fingerprint and biometric competences.

US funds built domestic wiretapping facilities, an eighty-five cameras surveillance system installed in Guatemala City. Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) teams, comprised of US FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agents, partner with Central American police. The combined teams investigate drug trafficking, weapons smuggling and money laundering. Approximately sixty percent of cocaine that enters the US transits Central America.

On the afternoon of January 13th 2015 an American surveillance aircraft, on patrol in the Caribbean Basin, detected a thirty foot vessel navigating thirty-six nautical miles off Quepos, on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coastline. A responding Costa Rica Coast Guard vessel, utilizing Harris military radio capability, communicated with the US surveillance plane.

A joint operation resulted in the interception of the vessel, sailing under an Ecuadorian flag, seventeen nautical miles offshore. A Costa Rican Drug Control Police report detailed the thirty-foot vessel was operated by a five man crew, three Colombians and two Costa Ricans. The two Costa Ricans were wanted by local law enforcement for extortion and aggravated robbery. The boarding party’s search found eight hundred and ten kilos of cocaine worth US$12,960,000. One kilo in Brownsville, Texas is valued US$16,000.

On October 7th 2016 the US Embassy in Honduras named seven drug trafficking and corruption suspects, the notorious Atlantic Cartel boss of bosses, under formal investigation, included. On October 9th a Honduran Army Captain was interviewed by a senior DEA agent at the local US Embassy as a “person of interest”. The Captain claimed that during his interview US DEA agents attempted to coerce testimony, against the Honduran president’s brother, in a murder conspiracy. On Monday October 10th the Honduran Army Captain’s name was officially added to an updated corruption, drug trafficking and money laundering list. He is currently suspended from duties.









Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.


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