Ex Colombian Navy Employee Arrested for Facilitating Cocaine Trafficking

Published: 19 March 2024

ARC Almirante PadillaThe Colombian Navy has a Coast Guard Station in Urabá, Antioquia, which is responsible for maritime control of the region, known to be a transit point for drugs heading to North America. (Photo: TKMoreno, Wikimedia, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Colombia's Attorney General's Office announced the arrest of a former Navy employee who allegedly abused his position to help drug cartels ship tonnes of cocaine to Central America and the United States. He is also wanted by a federal court in Florida, which has requested his extradition.

Jair Alberto Alvarez Valenzuela served as an electromechanical technician in the National Navy until the end of 2022, according to the Attorney General's Office. He worked at the Coast Guard Station in Urabá, Antioquia, a region near the Panamanian border, which serves as a crucial corridor for drugs bound for North America.

Utilizing his Navy role, along with its software and his own logistical expertise, Alvarez Valenzuela arranged for electronic devices to be installed on Navy vessels and provided  information about their movement to the leaders of drug trafficking networks associated with the Clan del Golfo, a criminal organization that emerged from Colombia's paramilitary movement following its demobilization in 2006.

This data enabled drug traffickers to meticulously plan the timing and routes for sending their cocaine-laden boats, confident that they would evade interception by authorities, as stated by the Attorney General's Office.

Additionally, Jair Alberto Alvarez Valenzuela was linked to five other former Navy officers and two civilians who were arrested at the end of 2023. Allegedly, he approached them to obtain information about Navy units involved in anti-drug operations in the Colombian Caribbean, establishing illicit routes for transporting drugs abroad while circumventing Navy controls against this transnational crime, according to a statement from the National Navy issued on Saturday.

The arrest of Jair Alberto Alvarez Valenzuela occurred in the municipality of Turbo, Antioquia. The former Navy employee is sought by U.S. authorities and may face extradition.