- The best series on Amazon Prime Video
- The best Spanish series on Amazon Prime Video
The incredible journey of a narco-submarine is placed at the center of ‘Operación Marea Negra’, the new Spanish series on Amazon Prime Video produced by Ficción Producciones and starring Álex González. Its four episodes promise many doses of tension and suspense, in a story that seems taken from the most imaginative of fictions.
But it’s not like that: It is a true story that began and ended on the coast of Galicia, and that we can count among the most surreal stories ever seen in the world of drug trafficking. The series is based on the homonymous book where the journalist Javier Romero made the definitive chronicle of all these events, collecting exclusive testimonies from police officers, judges, specialists and witnesses of one of the most surprising events in our history. We see the result in ‘Operation Black Tide’, which premieres this February 25 on Amazon Prime Video. In addition, from March 11 it will also be available in streaming a documentary in which the real events that we see in the production are explored. But before we can see it in pictures, We are going to review this true story on which the series is based, from how the boxer Agustín Álvarez got involved to the consequences that its main protagonists are experiencing today.
The first narco-sub to be hunted down
You may have already heard of those known as narco-submarines, underwater vessels that were used by traffickers to move large quantities of drugs between continents. And it is that the first narco-submarines began to be seen decades ago, particularly in the 90s with Pablo Escobar in Colombia. Since then it has become normal in this criminal underworld. “Now they are quite common: every year between 30 and 40 are intercepted in Colombia,” journalist Javier Romero, author of “Operation Black Tide,” said in an interview with BBC Mundo. “And although numerous police reports from drug trafficking experts had long pointed out that drug traffickers were using submarines to cross the Atlantic, never until ‘Che’ was intercepted had any been apprehended”he added.
‘Che’ is the name given to the narco-submarine that stars in the story of the new Amazon Prime Video series. It was built in a clandestine shipyard in Colombia, and on the night of October 29, 2019, it began its journey through the Amazon, crossing the Atlantic Ocean and reaching the coast of Galicia in an improvised destination. Inside the ‘Che’, during a whopping 28 days, not only more than 3,000 kg of cocaine prepared to be distributed traveled, but also three men who had to endure the most inhumane travel conditions: They were the Ecuadorian cousins Luis Tomás Benítez Manzaba and Pedro Roberto Delgado Manzaba, and the person in charge of piloting the boat, the former Spanish boxing champion and expert sailor Agustín Álvarez.
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Agustín Álvarez, a boxer turned trafficker
The actor Álex González plays in ‘Operación Marea Negra’ a man trapped in the most surreal situation possible: locked up in a submarine with two strangers, thousands of kilos of cocaine and the authorities hot on their heels until the end. That man was Agustín Álvarez, a former Spanish boxing champion who also had navigation skills, which made him the perfect candidate for the operation. Police sources estimated that he would receive between 400,000 and 500,000 dollars for his participation..
In an interview on Pontevedra Viva, Javier Romero described Álvarez as someone who did not seem headed for a life of crime. “What I discovered, after speaking with everyone around him in Vigo, is that he was not the typical guy who comes from a broken family or from a marginal environment that would have led him to juvenile delinquency. He had no criminal record and his entire environment was completely normal. He had been a boxing champion and left everything suddenly. At 22 or 23 years old “said the journalist, which helps us to form an image of this man at the center of the event.
According to Romero, Agustín Álvarez came to the operation “by discarding”, because in principle it was another Galician boy who had to lead the ‘Che’ and that he backed out at the last moment. Therefore, the protagonist had to make the decision quickly, launching into the adventure without thinking twice. The reason? Apparently, the strong economic needs. “[El primer elegido como piloto] He was someone with enough power to make that decision, because Agustín would not have been able to make it if he had wanted to,” Romero assures.
An absolutely surreal journey
As we pointed out before, ‘Che”s journey began at the end of October 2019. According to the BBC Mundo account, they began sailing down the Amazon river for 12 hours, facing problems ranging from suffocating humidity to abundant mosquitoes. Everything seemed to be going well when they finally managed to get out into the Atlantic, but, around November 5, the storm began to play tricks on them. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. “The landing of the drug had to have been made 269 miles from Lisbon. Professionals were going to be commissioned. A Galician organization, in fact. They had to pick up the merchandise and the crew and sink the narco-submarine”said Romero in Pontevedra Viva, explaining what happened next: “They had two gliders ready but one of them had an engine failure. We had to wait and the bad weather made everything difficult. Those were the days of a storm called Cecilia and they almost died crushed or severed by a large ship. It was Agustín’s expertise that allowed them to come out on top“.
Bad weather threatened to sink the boat on several occasions. Just imagine the situation: a cramped, incredibly claustrophobic submarine, and three men locked up there trying to save their lives without going insane or killing each other. After seventeen days of crossing, the submarine reached its first goal in the Azores Islands. A victory. From there, the crew went to the exact point where they had agreed that the drug would be unloaded, 270 miles in a straight line from Lisbon. And they arrived, but no one was waiting for them. A technical problem had delayed the team that was to pick them up, and now they had to head to the coast of Galicia.
Unfortunately for the ‘Che’ trio, the authorities were already after them. “They activated the satellite phone and, in that, the English are very good. They caught the signal and found out that there was a boat with 3,000 kilos of cocaine and notified Portugal. When they were discovered, as the pilot is Galician, those responsible for the operation They tell them to shoot towards Galicia. They go without a net and throw themselves into the void,” explained Romero. What followed was a cat-and-mouse hunt: the Civil Guard guarded the beaches, preventing them from landing, and finally they headed for the Rías Baixas, the Aldán estuary, because Agustín spent the summers there and knew the area. At dawn on November 24, they left the submarine and left the sunken drug in place, thinking that they would come later to pick it up. They could not do it: on the same day they arrested Luis Tomás Benítez Manzaba and Pedro Roberto Delgado Manzaba and five days later Agustín Álvarez, who had taken refuge in a nearby house, was also arrested.
What has become of Agustín and company?´
The series ‘Operation Black Tide’ arrives on Amazon Prime Video just in time to learn the sentence of the ‘Che’ crew, which has not yet been revealed. As we mentioned, the three men were arrested in November 2019, almost two and a half years ago, and were brought to court for their illegal activities with drug trafficking. Specifically, for trying to sneak 152 bales of cocaine through the Galician coast. The drug was confiscated and its carriers have been in prison ever since. Now, they wait for the sentence to come out.
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