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Colombia, Panama, US Seize 2.4 Tons of Cocaine in Combined Operation

Colombia, Panama, US Seize 2.4 Tons of Cocaine in Combined Operation

By Myriam Ortega/Diálogo
October 20, 2021

In mid-September, Colombia, Panama, and the United States seized 2.4 tons of cocaine during a combined operation off the island of San Andrés, in the Caribbean coast of Colombia. According to the Colombian Navy, this seizure is likely the largest carried out aboard a speedboat by components of the Navy’s San Andrés and Providencia Specific Command in 2021.

“Through naval intelligence, we learned of a sailing vessel that was possibly carrying a large amount of drugs on board; as such, we coordinated the search for this vessel with partner countries, with an air platform,” Rear Admiral Hernando Mattos Dager, commander of the San Andrés and Providencia Specific Command, told Diálogo. “A U.S. government platform from Joint Interagency Task Force South that was patrolling, detects the vessel and sends information to our unit, and the interdiction process kicks off.”

However, due to the distance of the vessel, coordinating with other countries in the region to keep track of the speedboat was necessary. “The U.S. maritime patrol aircraft is relieved in the air by a Panamanian patrol, which continues to chase the suspicious artifact, while we continue to carry out the maneuvers with surface units, and finally the Colombian Air Force executes another air relay,” Rear Adm. Mattos said.

Upon noticing the presence of authorities, the vessel’s crew began to jettison the drug stash into the sea. Authorities intercepted the vessel 160 nautical miles off the coast of San Andrés.

“Four Colombians and one Nicaraguan national were on board [the speedboat]; these people were detained and we proceeded to collect the bags that were thrown into the sea, […] all this is gathered and brought to San Andrés,” Rear Adm. Mattos said. Authorities seized a total of 2,407 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride.

The officer added that the speedboat came from the Gulf of Urabá, and because a Nicaraguan man was on board, authorities assume that the vessel was bound for Central America. “With intelligence information and what we were able to verify through our findings on the vessel, this drug appears to belong to the Clan del Golfo,” Rear Adm. Mattos said.

So far this year, the Colombian Navy has seized more than 235 tons of cocaine hydrochloride, preventing more than $8 billion from reaching narcotrafficking organizations, the naval institution said in a September 11 statement.