Drug Cartels Change Tactics: Local Aircraft Stolen for Illicit Cargo

Drug Cartels Change Tactics: Local Aircraft Stolen for Illicit Cargo

Tue, 10/17/2023 - 22:03
Posted in:

Belizean Involvement Suspected in Maya Island Airplane Theft and Crash

By: Omar Silva, Editor National Perspective Belize

Belize City: Tuesday, October 17, 2023

In a shocking turn of events, it has come to light that drug cartels from South America have shifted their strategies to avoid detection by local civil aviation authorities. Recent events in Belize have exposed a troubling trend, with cartels resorting to the theft of local aircraft for their illicit operations.

On Monday morning, a leased Maya Island Airplane, valued at approximately three million U.S. dollars, was stolen from the Placencia Airport under the cover of darkness. The stolen aircraft was believed to be intended for narco-trafficking purposes. Moments after takeoff, the plane tragically clipped a lamppost and crashed, resulting in a fiery catastrophe that claimed the lives of both pilots.

The investigation into this incident has revealed that the two individuals in the cockpit were of Argentinean and Venezuelan nationalities, and they entered Belize illegally. The Belize Police Department, in collaboration with international agencies, Immigration, and Civil Aviation departments, is diligently working to uncover how these men gained access to the country and what led to the crash.

Commissioner of Police Chester Williams confirmed the involvement of Belizeans in facilitating the incident. Surveillance footage revealed that eight men arrived in the area by boat, suggesting local assistance. The captain of the boat would have needed knowledge of navigating the shallow waters in the vicinity, further implicating local involvement.

While the security guard initially claimed that four armed men accosted him, it is now evident that there were more individuals involved, as shown in surveillance footage. The investigation is ongoing to identify and apprehend those responsible.

Evidence found at the crash site, including extra fuel bottles in the stolen aircraft, strongly suggests that the plane was intended for a long-range narco-trafficking operation, likely from South America to Belize. The ease with which the aircraft was stolen, with no locks on its doors and a simple ignition switch, raises concerns about the security of aircraft left overnight at certain airstrips, such as Placencia.

The incident underscores the growing threat posed by transnational narcotics trade to national and regional security. Belizean authorities, including the police, coast guard, B.D.F., and immigration, have been working tirelessly to protect the nation's borders. However, the porous nature of these borders and the vast maritime domain make it a challenging endeavor.

As the investigation unfolds, Belizeans are left with a sense of urgency to bolster security measures at local airstrips and remain vigilant in the face of evolving criminal tactics.

Stay tuned for further updates on this developing story.