Soldiers stand guard next to packages containing cocaine after Colombian police seized more than 6 metric tons of the drug, in Barranquilla, April 2, 2017. Colombian Police/Handout via REUTERS
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombian police have seized more than 6 metric tons of cocaine in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla, the defense minister said on Sunday.
The shipment, the third-largest seizure in the history of continental Colombia, was found on Friday and belonged to several drug gangs, among them the so-called Urabenos, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas told journalists.
The shipment would have been worth about 200 million euros in Spain, its final destination.
Authorities have already confiscated 103 metric tons of cocaine this year, the minister added. Last year a record 378.3 metric tons were seized.
Colombia, long one of the world's top producers of cocaine, saw cultivation of coca, the drug's base ingredient, rise to new highs in 2016.
Initial reports indicated that production rose a little over 13% in 2016 from the previous year, from 392,897.5 acres to about 444,800 acres, or about 695 square miles. Numbers released by the Colombian government, citing data from the US government, said cultivation had risen to 464,558 acres, enough to produce about 700 tons of cocaine a year.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Nelson Bocanegra; editing by Meredith Mazzilli)