MIAMI — USS Nicholas and Coast Guard participating in multi-national anti-illicit trafficking effort Operation Martillo seized in the Pacific coast of Central America 275 pounds of marijuana and 500 pounds of cocaine worth more than US$6 million.
The operation intends to disrupt organized crime operations by limiting their ability to use Central America as a transit zone.
Crewmembers of the USS Nicholas and a U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Team seized the narcotics June 19 after a U.S. Navy aircraft spotted a speedboat. The drug traffickers then began to jettison the contraband overboard.
An embarked SH-60 helicopter was launched with a gunner on board to intercept the speedboat and mark the debris field with a smoke float. In an attempt to get the vessel to stop, the gunner fired warning shots across the bow and aft of the speedboat. When the vessel did not stop, the gunner fired disabling rounds, bringing the speedboat to a stop.
The USS Nicholas then launched a rigid-hull inflatable boat with Coast Guardsmen and seized the speedboat.
“This interdiction is a clear example of our commitment to produce a safer and more secure region where criminal organizations no longer wield the power to destabilize governments,” said Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F). “These organizations threaten national and regional security and public safety, so we need to prevent the entry and spread of illicit drugs, violence, and transnational threats to countries throughout the region and to the United States.”
“More than 80% of the narcotics entering Central America and largely transiting through Mexico on their way to U.S. markets enter via maritime littoral routes, with the main conveyance being ‘go-fast’ boats,” said Harris. “By teaming up with our partner nations and allied forces to scrutinize the littorals, we will deny transnational organized crime networks these routes.”
Operation Martillo (Spanish for ‘hammer’) is a partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. This joint service, interagency, and multinational operation is being led by Joint Interagency Task Force-South, a National Task Force charged with detecting, monitoring, and supporting the interdiction of illicit trafficking in a 42-million-square-mile area primarily in the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of operations.