Nicaraguan town wealthy from cocaine bricks that wash ashore

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."

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."

Link (Via Digg)


  1. uh…. he’s only 22 years old?

    it’s the Mosquito Coast inn’t it? Something strange and in-sucking there….

  2. At long last, a Yes reference:

    We hit the blue fields
    In the blue sedan we didn’t get much further
    Just as the sun was rising in the mist
    We were all alone we didn’t need much more

    So fast this expedition
    So vast this heavy load
    With a touch of luck and a sense of need
    Seeing the guns and their faces
    We look around the open shore
    Waiting for something

  3. Is anyone else confused/disturbed by the fact that the US COAST GUARD is doing something a thousand miles from the nearest US coastline?

  4. To all of you who are now considering moving there, I recommend the Corn Islands, a couple of hours’ boat ride from Bluefields.

    Bluefields is a sad little town in the middle of swampy nowhere. Corn Islands (Little Corn and Big Corn) are paradise, and there are plenty of white lobsters to be caught there, too – or so I was once told by an excited American guy who had just spent four months on Big Corn Island and couldn’t remember any of it.

    Another person who had lived there told me that the main causes of death on the islands are cocaine overdose and being hit by a falling coconut.

  5. I have feeling that this is beginning of the end.

    If I were a parasite I’d be down there in flash to make my fortune.

  6. I did a double take when I saw this one, because I’ve done a bit of reading about Bluefields. It’s kind of an interesting place. Not too many people know that on the east coast of Nicaragua, which is separated from Managua by a hard-to-pass stretch of swampland, English is more commonly spoken than Spanish. There are also a few dwindling local languages, one of which, Rama, was a subject of study by MIT uberlinguist Ken Hale.

    @Takuan: The Mosquito coast (which actually refers to the local Miskito people), does indeed include Bluefields.

    Bluefields also has a minor history of some rather catchy reggaeish pop…

  7. We called similar items (bulky herbal debris) square grouper, back in the day. Never found any, though.

  8. huh. there was nothing like this when I went to Nica in ’88…. just the pre-Catholic Daniel Ortega in power, contras with guns on the hilltops, goats in the streets, and knock-off goods like “Best” toothpaste in the markets in Managua.

    FYI Snifty – it’s my understanding that Bluefields is also one of the few coastal villages where the Garifuna language is still spoken (an African / Carib creole), the reggae-ish pop would probably be parranda.

    for a great example check out the work of the late Andy Palacio, who died far too young last month of a massive stroke and heart attack. the album Watina is a gem – the “Buena Vista Social Club” of Latin America.

  9. yep. bluefields is a pretty interesting place. feels like a pirate town when you’re there, especially if you arrive, like most people do, by boat. the musical tastes are simple: classic country and reggae, and you can tune in to a local station and hear waylon jennings and merle haggard staggered with gregory isaacs and burning spear.
    corn islands is indeed an island paradise. cocaine is three dollars a gram and uncut, though i was too sick to partake when i visited. i did meet lots of wide-eyed canadians and americans who came for the fishing but stayed for the blow. on little corn, there are no nightclubs, and on weekend nights almost everybody on the island heads to the local evangelical church for the action. it is pretty crazy to watch a bunch of coked-up foreigners dancing and gesticulating wildly to caribbean hymnals. recommended, by all means.

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