Operation Martillo: U.S. Coast Guard offloads US$23M of cocaine
By Dialogo March 18, 2014
MIAMI, U.S.A. – Crewmembers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tampa recently offloaded about 680 kilograms of cocaine with a wholesale value of US$23 million seized as part of Operation Martillo.
The cocaine was seized on March 12, when the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tampa saw a suspicious, go-fast boat moving swiftly across the Caribbean Sea.
With a Customs and Border Patrol Maritime Patrol aircraft providing assistance, the Tampa’s helicopter pursued the vessel, firing warning shots to make it stop. Coast Guard agents found 695 packages of cocaine stashed inside the boat’s hull. The cocaine was offloaded in the city of St. Petersburg in the U.S. state of Florida on March 17.
“This seizure highlights the hard work and dedication of our crews in stopping the illegal flow of drugs in the Caribbean,” said Cmdr. Clinton Carlson, the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa’s commanding officer. “This interdiction demonstrates the effectiveness of our federal and interdiction partnerships to keep dangerous drugs off our streets.”
The bust was part of Operation Martillo, a multinational effort that also includes Canada, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It strives to disrupt transnational criminal organizations by limiting their ability to use Central America as a transit zone.
Between the launch of Operation Martillo in January 2012 and the end of January 2014, the effort confiscated 278,611 kilograms of cocaine and 27,556 kilograms of marijuana during its 444 events that led to 620 arrests and 205 seized vessels.
Operation Martillo has removed more than US$5.6 billion in narcotics and equipment from the global drug trade.
The key to Operation Martillo’s success has been countries working together toward a common goal: to curtail narco-trafficking and the violence it brings. More than 67% of all seizures involve partner nation assistance or support.
Operation Martillo partners recently agreed to continue to address regional transnational criminal threats, improve communication and information sharing, and remain firmly committed to denying Transnational Criminal Organizations the air and maritime access needed to move their illicit cargo.
The latest bust comes in the wake of the U.S. Navy’s announcement on Jan. 13 that it had seized 313 kilograms of cocaine in the eastern Pacific in late December. The USS Rentz launched a helicopter that caught a go-fast boat carrying the shipment, which was worth an estimated US$10.4 million. Three suspects were arrested in connection with the seizure and handed over to Ecuadoran authorities.
The Rentz’ bust was its fourth in recent months, as it has confiscated about 3,000 kilograms of cocaine.