Operation MARTILLO: USS Vandegrift Seizes About 845 kilograms of Cocaine off Central American Coast

By Dialogo
November 18, 2014



The USS Vandegrift seized about 845 kilograms of cocaine during a recent six-week stretch off the coast of Central America as Operation MARTILLO continues to disrupt international drug trafficking in the Central American isthmus.

Overall, the Vandegrift has disrupted 4,445 kilograms of cocaine shipments on the Central American coast as part of Operation MARTILLO – a multinational mission to crack down on illicit drug trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus that was launched in January 2012.

On October 27, it confiscated 13 bales collectively containing about 500 kilograms of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean.

About six weeks earlier, on September 14, the 11th Coast Guard District had the Vandegrift deploy its Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) / Navy Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) crew to interdict a suspicious fishing vessel in the Pacific Ocean. The search yielded about 350 individually wrapped packages of cocaine, with a total weight of 345 kilograms.

Operation MARTILLO combines the forces of 10 countries in the Americas – Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Canada, and the United States – along with France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, who work cooperatively to combat international drug trafficking, enhance regional security, and promote peace, stability and prosperity throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America.

The countries share information and use their air, land, and maritime forces to counter illicit trafficking by limiting the use of Central America as a transit area. At-sea interdictions in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific are highly coordinated. After a suspicious boat is identified by a participating nation, a U.S. Coast Guard LEDET or partner nation law enforcement agency carries out the boarding and searching of the vessel, in addition to making arrests.

Between July and October, Operation MARTILLO seized about 14 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated $423 million (USD). The cocaine was offloaded at Naval Base San Diego, in the state of California, on October 6.

In 2013, the forces of Operation MARTILLO seized 131 metric tons of cocaine, more than 32,000 pounds of marijuana, and 4,000 grams of heroin, in addition to capturing 295 suspects.

Alleged leader of


Leyva Cartel pleads not guilty in U.S. court


A U.S. federal judge has ordered that Alfredo Beltr á
n Leyva, a suspected leader of Mexico’s Beltr á
n Leyva Organization (BLO), be held without bond. The order came after Beltr á
n Leyva, who is also known as “El Mochomo” and “El Aguila,” pleaded not guilty on November 17 to a drug trafficking charge in U.S. District Court in in Washington, D.C.

El Mochomo made his first U.S. court appearance since being extradited from Mexico on November 15. He is accused of conspiring to import more than 11 pounds of cocaine, 110 pounds of methamphetamine, 21 pounds of heroin and 2,000 pounds of marijuana into the U.S.

“The arrest and extradition of Alfredo Beltr á
n Leyva represents a significant milestone in combating transnational criminal organizations,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell said in a prepared statement. “It is through collaborative efforts with our law enforcement partners that the United States will stem the tide of this continuing threat.”

The BLO, which is also known as the Beltr á
n Leyva Cartel, “has distributed tens of thousands of kilograms of dangerous narcotics and engaged in a campaign of violence that sparked drug wars and jeopardized public safety across North America,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said.

“[The] extradition of alleged kingpin Alfredo Beltr á
n Leyva is an important step toward stamping out an organization that has ruined the lives of so many. The Justice Department is committed to working with our international partners to bring the rest of the organization to justice.”

Mexican Special Forces troops captured El Mochomo in January 2008 in the city of Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa.

The country’s security forces have captured or killed four Beltr á
n Leyva brothers since December 2009. On October 1, Army soldiers captured Héctor Beltrán Leyva in a seafood restaurant in the city of San Miguel Allende, in the state of Guanajuato. Federal Police (PF) agents captured Alfredo’s brother, Carlos Beltr á
n Leyva, in Culiacán in December 2009. Also that month, a team of Mexican Marines killed Arturo Beltr á
n Leyva, who was known as “The Boss of Bosses” and “The Beard,” in a shootout in Cuernavaca.


The USS Vandegrift seized about 845 kilograms of cocaine during a recent six-week stretch off the coast of Central America as Operation MARTILLO continues to disrupt international drug trafficking in the Central American isthmus.

Overall, the Vandegrift has disrupted 4,445 kilograms of cocaine shipments on the Central American coast as part of Operation MARTILLO – a multinational mission to crack down on illicit drug trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus that was launched in January 2012.

On October 27, it confiscated 13 bales collectively containing about 500 kilograms of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean.

About six weeks earlier, on September 14, the 11th Coast Guard District had the Vandegrift deploy its Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) / Navy Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) crew to interdict a suspicious fishing vessel in the Pacific Ocean. The search yielded about 350 individually wrapped packages of cocaine, with a total weight of 345 kilograms.

Operation MARTILLO combines the forces of 10 countries in the Americas – Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Canada, and the United States – along with France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, who work cooperatively to combat international drug trafficking, enhance regional security, and promote peace, stability and prosperity throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America.

The countries share information and use their air, land, and maritime forces to counter illicit trafficking by limiting the use of Central America as a transit area. At-sea interdictions in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific are highly coordinated. After a suspicious boat is identified by a participating nation, a U.S. Coast Guard LEDET or partner nation law enforcement agency carries out the boarding and searching of the vessel, in addition to making arrests.

Between July and October, Operation MARTILLO seized about 14 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated $423 million (USD). The cocaine was offloaded at Naval Base San Diego, in the state of California, on October 6.

In 2013, the forces of Operation MARTILLO seized 131 metric tons of cocaine, more than 32,000 pounds of marijuana, and 4,000 grams of heroin, in addition to capturing 295 suspects.

Alleged leader of


Leyva Cartel pleads not guilty in U.S. court


A U.S. federal judge has ordered that Alfredo Beltr á
n Leyva, a suspected leader of Mexico’s Beltr á
n Leyva Organization (BLO), be held without bond. The order came after Beltr á
n Leyva, who is also known as “El Mochomo” and “El Aguila,” pleaded not guilty on November 17 to a drug trafficking charge in U.S. District Court in in Washington, D.C.

El Mochomo made his first U.S. court appearance since being extradited from Mexico on November 15. He is accused of conspiring to import more than 11 pounds of cocaine, 110 pounds of methamphetamine, 21 pounds of heroin and 2,000 pounds of marijuana into the U.S.

“The arrest and extradition of Alfredo Beltr á
n Leyva represents a significant milestone in combating transnational criminal organizations,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Assistant Director Joseph S. Campbell said in a prepared statement. “It is through collaborative efforts with our law enforcement partners that the United States will stem the tide of this continuing threat.”

The BLO, which is also known as the Beltr á
n Leyva Cartel, “has distributed tens of thousands of kilograms of dangerous narcotics and engaged in a campaign of violence that sparked drug wars and jeopardized public safety across North America,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said.

“[The] extradition of alleged kingpin Alfredo Beltr á
n Leyva is an important step toward stamping out an organization that has ruined the lives of so many. The Justice Department is committed to working with our international partners to bring the rest of the organization to justice.”

Mexican Special Forces troops captured El Mochomo in January 2008 in the city of Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa.

The country’s security forces have captured or killed four Beltr á
n Leyva brothers since December 2009. On October 1, Army soldiers captured Héctor Beltrán Leyva in a seafood restaurant in the city of San Miguel Allende, in the state of Guanajuato. Federal Police (PF) agents captured Alfredo’s brother, Carlos Beltr á
n Leyva, in Culiacán in December 2009. Also that month, a team of Mexican Marines killed Arturo Beltr á
n Leyva, who was known as “The Boss of Bosses” and “The Beard,” in a shootout in Cuernavaca.
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