Security forces from more than 40 countries across Europe and the Western Hemisphere seized over 140 tons of cocaine in the eighth phase of Operation Orion, a multinational naval operation combatting drug trafficking, the Colombian Navy announced on November 29.
This latest tally represents the highest amount of cocaine seized during the operation this year, bringing the total to over 260 tons. Coupled with 161 tons of marijuana confiscated this year, the drug seizures totaled over $1.9 million, according to the Colombian Navy.
The eighth phase of the operation has been running since October 2021 and has captured almost 600 people from various nationalities, along with 49 vessels, six submarines, and three planes.
“Starting with this Orion campaign, an important effort has been made that allows us to accelerate victory at this point,” said Colombia’s Minister of Defense Diego Andrés Molano on December 1. “Interagency coordination and a common purpose prevent drug trafficking from flooding the international markets with drug doses and then affecting the stability and security of our region,” he added.
Since Orion’s inception in 2018, the international naval operation has seized more than 545 tons of cocaine and 224 tons of marijuana, the Colombian Navy said.
Aside from the human toll inflicted by cocaine and other substances, the processing of illicit drugs in laboratories also harms the environment. Chemical precursors from these labs, where residues are deposited in the soil and water sources of forests and jungles, highly contaminate and pollute rivers and streams that supply drinking water to the population.
Deforestation is another effect, since illicit traffickers plant coca crops by cutting down trees and burning vegetation, leading to the loss of biodiversity, which damages ecosystems. To produce the 145.3 tons of cocaine seized in this last campaign, 73,744 hectares of jungles and forests were destroyed, and numerous bodies of water were contaminated.
According to Colombian security sources, the National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish), along with former members of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) guerrillas and criminal gangs, are involved in drug trafficking.
Taking part in the naval campaign along with the United States and Colombia are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.