Costa Rican Coast Guard Chief Hails Effectiveness of Operation MARTILLO

Costa Rican Coast Guard Chief Hails Effectiveness of Operation MARTILLO

By Dialogo
May 26, 2015





The head of Costa Rica’s National Coast Guard Service (SNG), Colonel Martín Arias, is an enthusiastic supporter of Operation MARTILLO – a multinational initiative against drug trafficking along Central American coastal waters.

The initiative has proven successful in interdicting drugs in the region, and a key component in that effort has been the use of Orion P3 patrol airplanes by U.S. Coast Guard personnel. These aircraft have sophisticated equipment that helps law enforcement officers detect and capture go-fast boats and fishing vessels that drug traffickers use to transport drugs, Col. Arias told Diálogo
.

Such capabilities have helped law enforcement authorities achieve a high rate of success in stopping narco-boats that attempt to transport drugs from Ecuador and Colombia north to Honduras and Guatemala. Since Military authorities launched Operation MARTILLO in January 2012, the initiative has resulted in the seizure of about 400 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated $8 billion.

SNG agents interdict narco-boats


During one successful Operation MARTILLO mission on April 29, law enforcement authorities, with the support of P-3 aircraft, interdicted a 30-foot, 250-horsepower go-fast boat which was carrying more than half a ton of cocaine. SNG personnel aboard three vessels deployed by Costa Rica’s police maritime security force intercepted the go-fast boat -- which had no license number or name -- off the Pacific coast, some 84 nautical miles southwest of the city of Quepos, one of the country’s major tourist resorts. There, SNG agents found 591 kilos of cocaine packed in 23 bags, and arrested the vessel's three crew members, two Ecuadoreans and one Costa Rican national. Law enforcement authorities suspect the boat was from Ecuador.

On the same day, agents on one of the SNG vessels also interdicted a nearby boat, the “Pura Vida,” with the support of personnel on another P-3 aircraft who spotted the suspicious boat. In addition to arresting the two crew members, the law enforcement officers found 24 fuel drums, a handgun, a GPS device, a satellite telephone, and two cell phones on the boat.

Since January 1, the SNG has interdicted nine go-fast boats and three fishing boats, which were allegedly carrying more than 3.9 tons of cocaine; in total it has carried out 25 maritime interdictions, seizing more than 15.3 tons of cocaine, according to the Public Security Ministry.

Authorities spot new trends on drug routes


During those efforts, military authorities in Operation MARTILLO remain on the lookout for new trends - such as the increasing number of Ecuadorean narco-ships in the region.

“They’re Ecuadorean vessels, with Ecuadorean licenses, but usually operated by Colombians,” Col. Arias said. “It’s a mode we’ve been finding for almost a year.”

These are typically small go-fast boats, which are difficult to spot. Most of them leave Ecuadorean port installations on the Pacific Ocean, go past that South American nation’s Galapagos Islands, and continue by Costa Rica’s Cocos Island. Drug traffickers often offload cocaine in Costa Rica for storage, and later attempt to ship the narcotics to Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, and Europe. Their boats, meanwhile, can be supported by as many as 21 other vessels providing logistical support, such as fuel and ammunition.

The success of Operation MARTILLO


P3 patrol airplanes are crucial in Operation MARTILLO's continuing efforts to fight such narco-trafficking.

“For an operation to be successful, really successful … support from the air –with the P3 airplanes – is extremely important, because the sea is vast, weather conditions – in general – are adverse, so it helps you intervene and reach targets more precisely,” Col. Arias said. “With a P3 plane, the probability of a vessel carrying narcotics, the possibility of capture, is 90 percent,” but “without a P3, it drops … to 10 percent.”

The use of P-3 aircraft also enhances communications, he added, because “our vessels, our operators talk with the P3," and the P3 communicates that information to authorities.

The importance of cooperation


To combat sophisticated drug trafficking organizations, Costa Rica works in cooperation with various U.S. security forces, often through the former's local Drug Enforcement Police and the Intelligence and National Security Bureau.

The two countries have cooperated in the fight against drug trafficking for years. For example, in 1999, Costa Rica and the U.S. signed a joint patrol agreement calling for the Coast Guards of both countries to work together in Costa Rican and international waters in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Costa Rica also works closely with the security forces of neighboring countries, such as Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

“If we, as countries, don't coordinate … the winners are the drug traffickers,” Col. Arias said. “So, working in regional blocs, results are bigger, and we’re going to see more numerous results in the months to come, in the years to come.”






The head of Costa Rica’s National Coast Guard Service (SNG), Colonel Martín Arias, is an enthusiastic supporter of Operation MARTILLO – a multinational initiative against drug trafficking along Central American coastal waters.

The initiative has proven successful in interdicting drugs in the region, and a key component in that effort has been the use of Orion P3 patrol airplanes by U.S. Coast Guard personnel. These aircraft have sophisticated equipment that helps law enforcement officers detect and capture go-fast boats and fishing vessels that drug traffickers use to transport drugs, Col. Arias told Diálogo
.

Such capabilities have helped law enforcement authorities achieve a high rate of success in stopping narco-boats that attempt to transport drugs from Ecuador and Colombia north to Honduras and Guatemala. Since Military authorities launched Operation MARTILLO in January 2012, the initiative has resulted in the seizure of about 400 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated $8 billion.

SNG agents interdict narco-boats


During one successful Operation MARTILLO mission on April 29, law enforcement authorities, with the support of P-3 aircraft, interdicted a 30-foot, 250-horsepower go-fast boat which was carrying more than half a ton of cocaine. SNG personnel aboard three vessels deployed by Costa Rica’s police maritime security force intercepted the go-fast boat -- which had no license number or name -- off the Pacific coast, some 84 nautical miles southwest of the city of Quepos, one of the country’s major tourist resorts. There, SNG agents found 591 kilos of cocaine packed in 23 bags, and arrested the vessel's three crew members, two Ecuadoreans and one Costa Rican national. Law enforcement authorities suspect the boat was from Ecuador.

On the same day, agents on one of the SNG vessels also interdicted a nearby boat, the “Pura Vida,” with the support of personnel on another P-3 aircraft who spotted the suspicious boat. In addition to arresting the two crew members, the law enforcement officers found 24 fuel drums, a handgun, a GPS device, a satellite telephone, and two cell phones on the boat.

Since January 1, the SNG has interdicted nine go-fast boats and three fishing boats, which were allegedly carrying more than 3.9 tons of cocaine; in total it has carried out 25 maritime interdictions, seizing more than 15.3 tons of cocaine, according to the Public Security Ministry.

Authorities spot new trends on drug routes


During those efforts, military authorities in Operation MARTILLO remain on the lookout for new trends - such as the increasing number of Ecuadorean narco-ships in the region.

“They’re Ecuadorean vessels, with Ecuadorean licenses, but usually operated by Colombians,” Col. Arias said. “It’s a mode we’ve been finding for almost a year.”

These are typically small go-fast boats, which are difficult to spot. Most of them leave Ecuadorean port installations on the Pacific Ocean, go past that South American nation’s Galapagos Islands, and continue by Costa Rica’s Cocos Island. Drug traffickers often offload cocaine in Costa Rica for storage, and later attempt to ship the narcotics to Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, and Europe. Their boats, meanwhile, can be supported by as many as 21 other vessels providing logistical support, such as fuel and ammunition.

The success of Operation MARTILLO


P3 patrol airplanes are crucial in Operation MARTILLO's continuing efforts to fight such narco-trafficking.

“For an operation to be successful, really successful … support from the air –with the P3 airplanes – is extremely important, because the sea is vast, weather conditions – in general – are adverse, so it helps you intervene and reach targets more precisely,” Col. Arias said. “With a P3 plane, the probability of a vessel carrying narcotics, the possibility of capture, is 90 percent,” but “without a P3, it drops … to 10 percent.”

The use of P-3 aircraft also enhances communications, he added, because “our vessels, our operators talk with the P3," and the P3 communicates that information to authorities.

The importance of cooperation


To combat sophisticated drug trafficking organizations, Costa Rica works in cooperation with various U.S. security forces, often through the former's local Drug Enforcement Police and the Intelligence and National Security Bureau.

The two countries have cooperated in the fight against drug trafficking for years. For example, in 1999, Costa Rica and the U.S. signed a joint patrol agreement calling for the Coast Guards of both countries to work together in Costa Rican and international waters in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Costa Rica also works closely with the security forces of neighboring countries, such as Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

“If we, as countries, don't coordinate … the winners are the drug traffickers,” Col. Arias said. “So, working in regional blocs, results are bigger, and we’re going to see more numerous results in the months to come, in the years to come.”


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