Involvement of local residents of San Andres Island in guerrilla or drug trafficking activity (1995-2000) [COL35979.E]

Numerous sources refer to the free port of San Andres Island as a transit point for drugs being shipped out of Colombia towards Europe and North America, including routes through Nicaragua and Honduras.

In March 1996 the United States Department of State reported that one of the achievements of 1995 in anti-narcotics cooperation with the government of Colombia included the "denial of the blatant use of San Andres Island as a way station for drug shipments" (INCSR 1995 Mar. 1996). The report states that the government of Colombia "strengthened control over ports and the international airport in San Andres considerably during 1995 and reported a markedly reduced use of the island as a transit route," but adds that "multi-ton cocaine shipments nevertheless continue" (ibid.).

In its Annual Report 1995/96, the Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues describes the island of San Andres as "an important centre for all kinds of trafficking" (importante centro de todo tipo de tráficos), adding that cocaine shipments landing on the coast of Nicaragua arrive from San Andres, from the Colombian mainland, from Puerto Limon in Costa Rica, or from the Corn Islands of Nicaragua (OGD 1997).

In a 1997 report, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stated:

Nicaragua continued to play an important role in cocaine trafficking to the United States, largely due to its location near traditional air and sea smuggling routes. Drug traffickers shipped cocaine from Colombia's San Andres Island to Nicaragua's Corn Island and Cayos Miskitos Islands, as well as the Port of Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas. From these points, traffickers were able to reach Florida by go-fast boats in as little as 6 hours (DEA 1997).

In 1997 the President of Honduras was reportedly warned by Honduran police experts not to sign a mutual investment agreement with Colombia (La Prensa 22 Jan. 1997). The report states that the Caribbean coast of Honduras is used by a drug trafficking network based in San Andres island, whose Colombian members and Honduran accomplices have engaged in land purchases along the Honduran coast (ibid.).

In 1998 the police chiefs of Colombia and Nicaragua met to coordinate anti-drug efforts (La Prensa 18 Mar. 1998). The Colombian chief of police reportedly stated that traffickers use the island of San Andres to send cocaine and heroin to Europe and the United States through Nicaragua and other Central American countries; the same route is used to introduce weapons to Colombia, to supply a variety of armed and organized crime groups (ibid.).

A 1998 report states that

Most Colombian cocaine is shipped in huge multi-ton sea cargo or eight ton shipments on old 727s to deliver to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean where it is broken down into smaller shipments bound for the States or Europe. San Andres Island, an old stomping ground of DP [Dangerous Places, a publication] is one of the major air transshipment points into Nicaragua and then to Mexico (Fielding's Travel 1998).

An 8 October 1999 press release from the United States Department of Justice reports on the conviction of a man from the island of San Andres on charges of money laundering. The report states that he was one of 14 people charged in 19973/4four of whom remain fugitives3/4for a scheme involving deposits in North American banks (ibid.).

Another 1999 report states that many lobster and shrimp fishermen along the Honduran coast have become used to trading their products for drugs that arrive from Colombia, particularly from the island of San Andres (The Transnational Institute 3 May 1999). The report adds that the exchanges take place at sea far from the shores (en alta mar) (ibid.).

A May 2000 report refers to an existing network of United States-sponsored air control radar bases that include the island of San Andres which provides support for anti-narcotics interdiction efforts (Qué Hacer 17 May 2000). Later in 2000, the government of Colombia reported that "in the last few years" (en los últimos años) more than 20 international routes for trafficking drugs, weapons and other supplies had been identified; the report identifies the island of San Andres as one of the main transit points for weapons and supplies arriving in Colombia from Central America (AFP 23 Aug. 2000).

In its most recent report on international narcotics control efforts, the U.S. Department of State refers to trafficking routes, but provides no specific reference to the island of San Andres:

Cocaine HCl [hydro-chloride] shipments move out of Colombia primarily by commercial maritime vessels (multi-ton loads) and general aviation aircraft (400-800 kgs shipments) to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, typically en route to the United States. Cocaine is also concealed in legitimate air and sea cargo destined for European ports (INCSR 1999 Mar. 2000).

An August 2000 article reports the discovery of nine automatic rifles by the National Police in San Andres, stashed underwater near a geyser (Programa Opiniones 26 Aug. 2000). The police were fired upon by individuals guarding the location and who managed to escape, although the local chief of police stated that police have strong clues (firmes indicios) of their identity (ibid.). The destination of the weapons was uncertain, but the police suspected that these might have been intended for eventual delivery to armed groups in Colombia (ibid.)

No references to an actual guerrilla presence in San Andres Island could be found among the sources consulted.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 23 August 2000. "Hay más de 20 rutas internacionales." (Peruvian Army News Archive) [Accessed 30 Jan. 2001]

Fieldings Worldwide, Inc.. n.p. 1998. "Drugs: War's Bastard Son." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) 1999. March 2000. "Colombia." Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) 1995. March 1996. "Colombia." Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State. [Accessed 30 Jan. 2001]

La Prensa [Tegucigalpa]. 18 March 1998. "Jefes policiales de Colombia y Nicaragua coordinan lucha antidrogas." [Accessed 30 Jan. 2001]

_____. 22 January 1997. "Advierten a Presidente Reina de no firmar tratados conColombia." [Accessed 30 Jan. 2001]

Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues, Paris. 1997. Annual Report 1995/96. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

Programa Opiniones [San Andres]. 26 August 2000. "Policía descubre caleta submarina de armas." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

Qué Hacer [Lima]. 17 May 2000. Ricardo Soberon Garrido. "La redefinicion de la seguridad hemisferica." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

The Transnational Institute, Amsterdam. 3 May 1999. Thelma Mejia. Honduras y su relacion inconclusa con el narcotrafico. [Accessed 30 Jan. 2001]

U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC. 8 October 1999. "Colombian National Sentenced to Prison for Role in Laundering Illegal Drug Money" [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Washington, DC. 1997. The Supply of Illicit Drugs to the United States. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

El Espectador [Bogota]. Searchable archives. 1996-2000.

IRB Databases.

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 1995-2000.

Latin American Regional Reports: Andean Group [London]. 1995-2000.

Latin American Weekly Report [London]. 1999-2000.

Radio Caracol [Bogota]. Searchable archives. May 1997-Sept. 2000.

World News Connection (WNC).

Internet Websites and search engines, including:

Amnesty International

Andean Commission of Jurists

El Espectador (1996-2000)

Human Rights Watch

United Nations (1997-2000)

Programa Opiniones [San Andres]. News archive, Aug. 2000-26 Jan. 2001.


This list is not exhaustive. Country-specific publications available at the Resource Centre are not included.