Salvadoran Navy, U.S. SOUTHCOM Cooperate to Fight Drug Trafficking

Salvadoran Navy, U.S. SOUTHCOM Cooperate to Fight Drug Trafficking

By Dialogo
August 25, 2015

I think all the policies they plan to implement in the countries that they are proposing are very good, but the bad thing is that they forget about it really quickly and don't do anything. I AM VERY GRATEFUL FOR MY PROVINCE I already have one son lost to drugs. It's too late for me Only God Jehovah will be able to fight the god of drugs

The Salvadoran Naval Force (FNES), working in cooperation with the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), has struck serious blows against maritime drug trafficking during the past year.

SOUTHCOM’s support, which includes providing the FNES with equipment and logistical assistance, “has improved their already-effective drug enforcement tactics,” Salvadoran Minister of Defense David Munguía Payes said in a press interview.

“El Salvador has been able to interrupt maritime smuggling of drugs, striking blows against organized crime along the coastal routes,” he added.

SOUTHCOM works collaboratively with El Salvador and other partner nations to cut off trafficking routes used by transnational criminal organizations attempting to transport drugs from South America to the U.S.

As part of a program to build partner nation capacity under the Counter-Narcotics Portfolio, SOUTHCOM provides El Salvador with maritime interdiction support, including equipment, training, and infrastructure, said Antonio Valle, counter-narcotics acquisition regional specialist from SOUTHCOM’s Resources and Assessment Directorate.

Among the equipment and support SOUTHCOM has provided:

37-foot Boston Whaler Interdiction Boats, associated spares, and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) certified training

Jeep J8s, associated spares, and OEM certified training;

Harris communications equipment, associated spares, and OEM certified training

Equipment in the form of helmets, ballistic vests, and flotation vests for the Cuscatlán Joint Group (GCC), an inter-agency team whose mission is to combat the transportation of large shipments of narcotics – and FNES

Barracks, an operations center in Comalapa to serve as the GCC's command and control hub, and a vehicle maintenance facility so El Salvador can maintain and sustain Jeep J8 tactical vehicles

Improvements to a boat ramp in La Union, as well as a new boat maintenance facility —
both of which will provide El Salvador with a strategic operating location for the Navy.

In recent years, the U.S. has provided six Zodiac patrol boats, worth $6 million collectively, to the FNES, which uses the vessels to respond quickly within 12 nautical miles along the country’s coasts and in the Fonseca Gulf.

Successful missions

The FNES has conducted several successful missions to disrupt maritime drug trafficking routes, including the launching of a series of successful operations as part of Operation LIONFISH II, which led to the detection and seizure of drugs between five and 15 miles off the coast in 2014 and included the participation of the U.S., said Captain René Merino, the head of El Salvador's Naval operations.

Thanks to LIONFISH II, Central American and Caribbean authorities seized more than 27.5 tons of drugs from December 1-12, 2014, with security forces seizing a ton of cocaine in El Salvador specifically.

Such operations are crucial in the fight against narco-trafficking because about 89 percent of the narcotics transported by drug cartels to the U.S. and Canada are sent by sea, Misael Rivas Soriano, security analyst and dean of the School of Law and Social Services at the New University of San Salvador (UNSSA), said.

El Salvador is “a receipt and warehouse point” for drug trafficking organizations, primarily from Colombia and Mexico, he added.

“Drug traffickers use our country’s coast as a corridor for transporting large shipments of drugs,” Capt. Merino said. “Our operations have detected maritime drug movements at five miles, 15 miles, and as far as 70 miles off the coast.”

Drug traffickers pretend to be fishermen to avoid security devices at sea, and use dual outboard motor speed boats to transport narcotics. Vessels carrying large shipments navigate at a distance of between 250-450 nautical miles (460-830 kilometers) from the coast in international waters, which are patrolled with the support of the U.S. Anti-Drug Monitoring Center (CMA), according to the report “Drug trafficking routes,” published by the website El Salvador.

Joint Group Cuscatlán also fights drug trafficking

El Salvador and the U.S. also cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking through operations conducted by the GCC.

From November 2014 to June 30, 2015, the GCC, in collaboration with FNES, the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, and the Salvadoran Drug Enforcement Division's National Civil Police, have seized approximately 2,000 kilograms of cocaine, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security reported by video on July 1.

From 2009 to 2015, security forces in El Salvador have captured 18,340 suspects linked to drug trafficking, as the fight against the crime requires international cooperation and “must have no borders” Rivas said.

The coordination between Salvadoran security forces and the U.S. could be “a message to drug traffickers not to pass through El Salvador,” Rivas added.

El Salvador and the United States also cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking through Operation MARTILLO, a multinational and multi-agency mission to crack down on illicit drug trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.