The citizens of Bluefields in Nicaragua (population 50,000) enjoy a high standard of living thanks to the weekly (or sometimes daily) bales of cocaine that drift ashore. The cocaine comes from Colombian traffickers who throw it from their boats when the US Coast Guard pursues them. Law enforcement in the city doesn't do anything about it, and the drug is traded openly in the streets and even in supermarkets.
"They throw most of it off," says a Lt Commander in the US Coastguard. "I have been on four interdictions and we have confiscated about 6000 pounds [2720kg] of cocaine, and I'd say equal that much was dumped into the ocean."
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Those bales of cocaine float, and the currents bring them west right into the chain of islands, beaches and cays which make up the huge lagoons that surround Bluefields on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast.
"There are no jobs here, unemployment is 85 per cent," says Moises Arana, who was mayor of Bluefields from 2001 to 2005.
"It is sad to say, but the drugs have made contributions. Look at the beautiful houses, those mansions come from drugs. We had a women come into the local electronics store with a milk bucket stuffed full of cash. She was this little Miskito [native] woman and she had $80,000."
Hujo Sugo, a historian of Bluefields, says the floating coke has created a new local hobby.
"People here now go beachcombing for miles, they walk until the find packets. Even the lobster fisherman now go out with the pretence of fishing but really they are looking for la langosta blanca - the white lobster."
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