Operation Martillo improves security in Latin America

By Dialogo
December 12, 2013

The multinational effort to combat drug trafficking in Latin America, which

is known as “Operation Martillo,” is improving security in the region, a security

analyst said.
Operation Martillo is joint effort to target drug trafficking along the Caribbean coastlines of Guatemala and Honduras, as well as drug trafficking routes in Pacific Ocean waters. The initiative, which was launched Jan. 15, 2012, includes all seven Central American nations and U.S. Southern Command (U.S. SOUTHCOM). Colombia, Mexico, Canada, as well as The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France are also active participants in the effort.
Security forces and law enforcement agencies participating in Operation Martillo have confiscated more than 222 metric tons of cocaine, seized $10.7 million (USD), and arrested 551 drug trafficking suspects since the initiative was launched in January 2012, authorities said.

The importance of international cooperation

International cooperation, such as the sharing of information by the security

services of the countries participating in Operation Martillo, led to the drug

seizures and captures, a security analyst said.
“These results by Operation Martillo are possible because Central American

countries and South American countries like Colombia have contributed intelligence

work to catch these shipments,” explained Alfredo Perez, a security analyst at

Central Cientítica affairs division of the National Safety Commission in Mexico.
Naval and Coast Guard forces from various countries participating in

Operation Martillo are cooperating effectively to identify and capture drug

shipments and organized crime operatives, Perez said.
“Various analysts can agree or disagree with these schemes,” Perez said. “But

to combat organized crime countries recognize that it is more efficient to do it

under a scheme of cooperation.”
By intercepting large drug shipments and capturing more than 500 suspects, Operation Martillo has proven successful, said Yadira Gálvez, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)..

Missions at sea

Cooperation between the Naval and Coast Guard fleets of the partner nation

participating in Operation Martillo has led to several large drug seizures: • In

September 2013,
a British Naval support ship, the “Wave Night,” intercepted a fishing boat in

the Caribbean Sea. Officers with the U.S. Coast Guard who were aboard the Wave Night

helped search the fishing vessel. The officers found and confiscated 55 packages of

marijuana, worth an estimated $5 million (USD).
• Between April 14 and July 12, 2013, Guatemalan and Honduran security forces

seized more than 2,340 kilograms of drugs along the coasts of the two countries.

During that time, authorities in the two countries incinerated another 3,000

kilograms of drugs that were seized during Operacion Martillo, according to

Guatemala’s Defense Ministry.

The importance of teamwork

Developing intelligence on drug shipments and intercepting them is a team

effort which requires international cooperation, according to military officials

participating in Operation Martillo.
For example, Latin American security forces are providing intelligence to

their partners in the U.S. Navy, who are helping to intercept drug shipments.
The USS Thach, a U.S. Navy frigate, began participating in Operation Martillo

in March 2013, patrolling in the Pacific Ocean.
By the time it had returned to U.S. waters in April 2013, the USS Thach, in

cooperation with Latin American security forces, had seized 379 kilograms of cocaine

and more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana. The drugs were worth more than $10 million

Ecuador and Colombia cooperate against drug trafficking Operation Martillo is

not the only cooperative initiative against organized crime in Latin America.
On Nov. 25, 2013, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Colombian President

Juan Manuel Santos and the foreign ministers of both countries met to discuss

security issues shared by the two countries. The leaders met in the border region

which divides the two countries, in the Colombian city of Ipiales.
Correa and Santos signed an agreement to strengthen ties between Ecuador and

Colombia in the fight against drug cartels and other organized crime groups.
“Where we have met most of our objectives is in security. We have to give

transnational crime a collective response between the two countries," Correa said

during the meeting with Colombian officials.

Battling the FARC and Los Rastrojos

The two countries share a border that is 730 kilometers long. The FARC and

other organized crime groups, as well as common criminals, are active in the border

region. Organized crime operatives and common criminals smuggle drugs and weapons,

engage in human trafficking, and commit other crimes in the border region.
Even before the signing of the security treaty, Ecuador and Colombia have

been cooperating closely on security in recent years.

Cooperation leads to the capture of “Palustre”

In August 2013, Ecuadorean security forces captured Jorge Dominguez, an

alleged gang leader who is wanted in Colombia. He is known as “Palustre” and is

suspected of being the leader of Los Rastrojos, a violent Colombian drug trafficking

Los Rastrojos trafficks cocaine, marijuana, and heroin, and engages in

illegal gold mining. Palustre was later deported to Colombia, according to Jose

Serrano, Ecuador’s Interior Minister.