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Miami Drug Case: If Colombian Cocaine Comes By Boat, It Goes Through VI or PR

coast guard MIAMI

MIAMI – A federal grand jury indicted a Guatemalan on charges of conspiring with others in six Latin American countries to smuggle cocaine to the United States in April.

Just your typical drug case from the mean streets of South Florida – except in this case – instead of the defendant fighting extradition back to the United States — times are so bad in Guatemala — that the wanted man is willing to do something most won’t — surrender himself to U.S. authorities on his own acccord.

Nery Manfredo Natareno Chacón, 41, was initially listed in court records as a fugitive. But by Aug. 5, the court docket listed him as in custody. Natareno Chacón was arraigned two weeks later and pleaded not guilty.

It is unclear from court records whether Natareno Chacón was arrested in South Florida or was extradited from a foreign country. But one document indicated that Natareno Chacón may have traveled to South Florida from Guatemala and surrendered with his attorney present.

“Natareno Chacón is a Guatemalan national currently residing in Guatemala,” according to a document signed by Miami U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. “Natareno Chacón has hired a United States-based attorney in an attempt to resolve his legal problems here in the United States. According to the attorney, Natareno Chacón … wishes to come forward and surrender.”

Now, Chacón is awaiting trial in Miami federal court.

The case began in January 2013 when federal investigators learned that Natareno Chacón allegedly conspired with others in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to “distribute” cocaine that eventually would be smuggled into the United States. The indictment charged Natareno Chacón with two counts. One was a general one accusing him of conspiracy to distribute the cocaine in the six countries, drugs that later would be transported to the United States.

The indictment does not identify Natareno Chacón’s alleged accomplices and does not describe what role precisely he is accused of playing in the presumed conspiracy.

But experts who monitor tactics and strategies of international drug smugglers say cocaine loads are generally shipped to the United States via a series of complex steps that begin in Colombia.

Sometimes the boats depart from the Pacific coast of Colombia or Ecuador and then head north toward Central America or Mexico. They generally rendezvous with another boat, transfer bales containing the cocaine, then the second boat makes the final dash toward the Mexican or Central American coast. Other times, the cocaine is transshipped through Venezuela and flown to the United States or taken by boat to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. For several years now, U.S. authorities have been targeting the tactics of Mexican, Central American and South American drug cartels with emphasis on the maritime routes they use in the Pacific, the Caribbean and the Atlantic.

Natareno Chacón’s attorney said he could not comment on the case.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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