Inside a Joint US-Colombia Operation to Apprehend Human Traffickers


Agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are working with the National Police of Colombia to stop people traffickers from leading migrants north through the Darien Gap.

Migrants camp on this lush isthmus, which is where South America meets Central America. They have to decide whether to follow human traffickers into the almost roadless wilderness or pay more to cross the Caribbean.

Col. Oscar Cortes of the Colombian National Police showed where migrants and traffickers can go earlier this month. He did this from a Blackhawk helicopter.

HSI and Colombian law enforcement worked together to find and arrest the leaders of three international smuggling networks. Colombia lets people come and go without papers, but it is illegal to take advantage of migrants by charging them to cross the country.

While we were embedded, one of the three people thought to be leaders was caught near Necocl, Colombia, and taken to a U.S.-funded facility. He will be tried in Colombia for smuggling, and he may be sent to the U.S.

The DHS’s investigative arm, HSI, takes a global approach to stop people from bringing drugs, weapons, and migrants into the U.S. before they get there.

A spokeswoman said that this year, HSI has trained, equipped, and shared information with law enforcement in 14 countries. This has led to more than 3,800 arrests.

Inside a Joint US-Colombia Operation to Apprehend Human Traffickers

42 people traffickers and 210 drug suspects have been caught by HSI and Colombian police. The official said that they had found 16,400 pounds of cocaine in Colombia the year before.

According to papers that NBC News got this summer, the Biden administration says that the operations have cut down on the number of people coming to the U.S. and the number of drugs coming in.

Colombia is still one of the top five places where drugs are made in the world. During that time, more than 70,000 pounds of cocaine came into the U.S.

Last year, a record number of undocumented migrants tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, but HSI officials worry that the number could be even higher if they don’t work with law enforcement in the Western Hemisphere.

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Officials from HSI said they want to expand intelligence-sharing programs like the one with Colombia because international criminal groups are using new smuggling routes, cryptocurrency, and other methods to hide their activities.

“It’s a never-ending game of cat and mouse,” said HSI deputy director Anthony Salisbury. “If they think we’re on to them, they’ll change their illegal routes into the U.S.” It’s like whack-a-mole, too.

After the three alleged people traffickers were arrested, the head of HSI Colombia, Brian Vicente, said, “It’s one organization that’s been taken off, disrupted, and decimated.”

Inside a Joint US-Colombia Operation to Apprehend Human Traffickers

Will there be more? He said, “Maybe not this one.” Colombia helps US police do their jobs.

NBC News said that Major Nicolas Berrio of the Colombian National Police likes HSI training and American intelligence. He said that the US and Colombia need to work together to catch criminals from other countries.

“US agents have no authority in our country,” Berrio said. “They must work with us.” “We can get proof from US agents and give it to them so they can catch all of these bad people.”

Berrio said this after his detectives arrested two international drug lords during a raid on a Medellin apartment. The leader is said to have brought ketamine into Colombia from Argentina with the help of Colombian doctors.

The drugs were cut up and sent to Miami. While the suspected leader was being arrested in his apartment, other agents across town searched a place they say he ran and found over 650 ketamine vials.

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