The international naval campaign Orion V to combat narcotrafficking, carried out in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean, as well as in Colombian rivers, enabled the seizure of 50.3 metric tons of cocaine and 7.3 metric tons of marijuana, Colombian President Iván Duque announced on May 29.
Duque, together with Colombian military leaders and representatives of participating nations, presented a summary of the results in a virtual press conference, where he described the combined work as “inspiring.” The campaign, with the participation of 26 countries from the Americas and Europe, took place from April 1 to May 15.
“During the implementation of the phase, when we see that the tons of drugs seized not only continue to grow but also exceed dozens, we can all reaffirm that the multilateral commitment in the fight against narcotrafficking is essential, inspiring, and a guide for public policy,” Duque said. “Each of the nations involved has contributed with their intelligence, has contributed with their operational capabilities, has contributed with their prosecution capabilities, as well as with rigorous and timely information gathering, to show the world that we are united in preserving security and justice for our people.”
Colombian Minister of Defense Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that the cocaine seized represented about a $1.7 billion impact on criminal funding. The total marijuana seized has an estimated value of more than $36 million on the international market, the minister added.
In addition to drug seizures, authorities (48 international institutions and agencies) captured 150 people of different nationalities, found 72 cocaine laboratories, and confiscated 38 boats, two semi-submersibles, and four aircraft that were intercepted on the ground. Members of the nations involved praised the Colombian forces’ leadership and the operational efficiency of the campaign, conducted in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Colombia is a trusted friend and ally whose immeasurable contributions to security and peace at home, in our hemisphere, and around the world, has earned the respect from nations around the globe. What better example than operation Orion in Colombia’s tireless work, with more than two dozen nations to defeat a foe, narcotraffickers, who heartlessly profit from human suffering and death,” said U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command. “Colombia’s successes against this threat are notable and one of the many reasons nations seek its advice on security and defense matters.”
“This extremely effective collaboration among international agencies during the operation serves as a model for future multinational efforts to counter the common threat of transnational criminal organizations,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Pat DeQuattro, director of Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-South).
The Colombian Navy has been leading the Orion campaign since 2018. In its fifth edition, the campaign had the participation of 41 maritime and riverine warships, 62 coast guard interceptor boats, 39 riverine combat boats, seven sea patrol aircraft, nine helicopters, and four unmanned aerial vehicles.
Argentina, Belize, Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay took part in the naval campaign.