Five episodes making up a week-long miniseries aired from July 9 – 13 on Univision international television network to show a typical day in the execution of Operation Martillo, a joint effort among 14 partner nations from Europe and the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, through the Southern Command, to counteract drug trafficking in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.
Network journalist Ricardo Arámbarri spent 10 days with crew members aboard U.S. Navy frigate USS Nicholas, during which he witnessed the daily life of the men and women who make it possible for that enormous guided-missile ship to function, as well as an interception in international waters that led to four arrests and the seizure of more than half a ton of drugs.
“It was important for Univision, as an international network, to provide coverage of Operation Martillo for our Hispanic audience in the United States and in Latin America, considering the repercussions that drug trafficking has in the region and on its population in general,” Arámbarri said. “Univision felt that it had a commitment to the Latin American region to publicize this joint effort to counteract drug trafficking in our region,” he added.
Arámbarri said that the 10 days on board the USS Nicholas allowed him to see how the U.S. Sailors live as they spend six months far from home on this mission. In addition, he highlighted the fact that each of them plays a key role, from the machinist below decks to the Sailor who operates the desalinization plant and the captain on deck. “They’re all part of a mechanism that makes the frigate function perfectly and the mission be carried out with success.”
The Univision journalist said that around 10:00 a.m. on the third day of the voyage, his team noticed that the USS Nicholas increased speed to 30 knots. Intelligence reports from land had warned that a speedboat was traveling through international waters in the Pacific with suspicious cargo.
“While we were on our way to intercept it, a Coast Guard P-3 Orion surveillance plane came within sight of the boat and forced it to stop, but its four crew members began to throw the cargo overboard in order to get rid of the evidence,” Arámbarri explained. By early afternoon, they had succeeded in detaining the boat and cornering its crew members amid the smoke of flares that marked the exact location in international waters between Colombia and Panama.
The Vessel Search and Seizure (VSS) team, the U.S. Coast Guard’s tactical boarding team, with legal authority to make arrests and seizures, arrested the four alleged drug traffickers. Later, a human chain recovered the packages that were floating in the sea. In total, 500 kilos of cocaine and 109 kilos of marijuana were seized in the operation. Arámbarri commented that, it was interesting to find that a number of packages wrapped in the same way as the drugs turned out to contain blocks of wood. Drug traffickers cheating one another? Whatever the reason, the shipment was successfully intercepted before it reached the streets, and its mules were brought before the courts.
In the 175 days that the USS Nicholas was deployed in Pacific waters in support of Operation Martillo, the frigate disrupted six attempts to traffic drugs, seizing a total of approximately 7.5 tons of cocaine and 110 kilos of marijuana.
To watch the complete series, visit the following link: