Operation Martillo: U.S., Great Britain seize 680 kgs of cocaine
By Dialogo August 19, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Great Britain’s Royal Navy recently seized 680 kilograms of pure cocaine from a go-fast boat in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Puerto Rico, marking another huge blow against narco-traffickers as the result of Operation Martillo.
A United States Customs and Border Agency ship spotted the suspicious vessel and contacted the Royal Navy’s HMS Lancaster, which deployed helicopters to intercept the boat, which was hidden under a tarpaulin.
The Royal Navy arrested the three-member crew, who had thrown 22 bales of cocaine overboard, but the narcotics were recovered. The HMS Lancaster destroyed the boat that had transported the cocaine, which had a street value of US$156.4 million.
Cmdr. Steve Moorhouse of the HMS Lancaster said it was the third recent bust in which Great Britain and the United States worked together to intercept a vessel carrying narcotics in the Caribbean.
“This is a great result, not only for Lancaster but also everyone involved in the multinational effort to stem the flow of drugs in the region,” he told the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail. “My ship’s company can be incredibly proud of what they have achieved, their professionalism and teamwork continue to shine, and our close relationship with our partner nations and law enforcement agencies is proving to be hugely successful.”
Moorhouse added his crew also has seized US$1.095 million of marijuana and large amounts of cocaine and heroin during the past three weeks.
The United Kingdom is part of Operation Martillo, which is led by the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South and includes Canada, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama and Spain. Operation Martillo’s goal is to disrupt transnational criminal organizations by limiting their ability to use Central America as a transit zone.
The operation plays a key role in the counter-narcotics fight, as about 80% of cocaine shipments are moved via maritime routes. Nearly 90% of the cocaine that reaches the United States comes through Mexico and Central America, according to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board.
“This extraordinary quantity of drugs has been stopped from reaching the streets by the swift actions of the Royal Navy, working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard,” Great Britain’s Secretary of Defense Philip Hammond told the Daily Mail. “This is another example of the skills and capability that mean our Armed Forces are held in high regard by our partners around the world.”
The bust continued to show how well Operation Martillo nations are working together in the counter-narcotics fight, as the HMS Lancaster is currently on patrol with the U.S. Coast Guard to catch narco-traffickers.
From its launch on Jan. 15, 2012 to July 17, 2013, Operation Martillo resulted in the seizure of 207,740 kilograms of cocaine and 37,397 kilograms of marijuana, 472 arrests and the confiscation of 152 assets.
The Joint Interagency Task Force South and U.S. Southern Command will continue to work closely with partner nations through Operation Martillo, as 69% of the disruptions made during the past fiscal year were supported by a member nation. During the 2011 fiscal year, 59% of disruptions included a partner nation.
“Operation Martillo has been a huge success and demonstrates our clear commitment to work together with our partner nations and interagency community to combat the influence of organized crime and disrupt the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S.,” Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, U.S. 4th Fleet, said in a prepared statement. “By teaming up with our partner nations and allied forces to scrutinize the littorals, our goal is to deny them the ability to transit so that the sea lines are not free for illicit traffic.”