El Salvador Cracks Down on Narcotrafficking with SOUTHCOM’s Help

El Salvador Cracks Down on Narcotrafficking with SOUTHCOM’s Help

By Lorena Baires/Diálogo
August 25, 2021

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U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) delivered a Metal Shark Defiant 85 coastal patrol vessel to the Salvadoran Navy (FNES, in Spanish) at La Unión Naval Base, on July 22, 2021. The handover was made possible thanks to the U.S. Foreign Military Financing Program, which supports Central American and Caribbean countries to help combat emerging maritime threats and narcotrafficking.

“This ship and this ceremony are the representation of the investment of the United States of America and our long-standing partnership with our friends in El Salvador,” U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, SOUTHCOM commander, said during the handover ceremony. “This investment is built on trust and friendship and is built to last. Our friends are professionals; the military in El Salvador has shaken hands with the United States military and Southern Command for decades. We fought together in Iraq and Afghanistan for the freedom of this globe.”

The patrol boat PM-15, which SOUTHCOM presented on July 22, 2021, at the La Unión Naval Base, joined anti-drug operations that Naval Task Force Trident carries out on the Salvadoran coast. (Photo: Salvadoran Armed Force)

The new vessel, a PM-15, is valued at $5.2 million, the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador reported. The United States donated $3.2 million, while El Salvador contributed $2 million, the Embassy added.

Prior to the donation, SOUTHCOM trained 10 Salvadoran crew members to operate the patrol vessel, which will join the fleet supporting operations against transnational organized crime, the Embassy said.

“When we talk about the fight against transnational threats, we do not mean that we only fight narcotrafficking in the country. We have demonstrated the ability to contribute to fighting this scourge against the international community, when we make drug seizures beyond our 200-mile territorial sea,” Navy Vice Admiral René Merino, Salvadoran minister of Defense, said.

Strong results

With SOUTHCOM’s cooperation and training, the Salvadoran authorities have increased their interdictions. On July 31, the FNES seized 1.4 tons of cocaine 490 nautical miles from Acajutla Port, Sonsonate department, the Salvadoran Presidency reported in a statement. This was the first time that authorities seized a significant shipment this far off the coast.

Two soldiers with Naval Task Force Trident watch over 1.4 tons of cocaine that units seized 490 nautical miles from Acajutla Port, Sonsonate department, on July 31, 2021. (Photo: Salvadoran Armed Force)

In another operation, on July 25, service members seized 585 kg of cocaine 319 nautical miles from Acajutla Port. The seizure took place thanks to an intelligence alert, in addition to the deployment of five vessels with air support, the Salvadoran Armed Force reported.

In both the seizures, the National Civil Police’s Anti-narcotics Division arrested the vessels’ crew members. According to the Police, agents detained six people in the first operation — two Ecuadorians, three Mexicans, and a Colombian — and three people in the second intervention, one Colombian and two Ecuadorians, who will face trial in the coming weeks.