U.S. Coast Guard seizes US$40 million worth of cocaine
By Dialogo January 07, 2013
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – The U.S. Coast Guard seized US$40 million worth of cocaine, including one shipment weighing more than 2,600 pounds, in two successful Holiday Season operations in the Caribbean Sea.
The U.S. Coast Guard announced on Jan. 4 it seized a US$29 million shipment of cocaine and arrested two suspected Dominican drug smugglers in an eastern Caribbean seizure. On Dec. 29, the U.S. Coast Guard seized US$11 million worth of cocaine.
The seizures were part of Operation Martillo and Operation Caribbean Guard, missions that have been implemented to curtail illicit trafficking in the Western Hemisphere.
The Jan. 4 seizure – part of Operation Caribbean Guard – was carried out after a surveillance aircraft spotted a suspicious powerboat about 60 nautical miles from the southern coast of St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The U.S. Coast Guard sent the 110-foot Cutter Matinicus toward the suspicious boat, a 32-foot Cuddy-Cabin. Aboard, crews found 40 bales of cocaine – confirmed by a field test on the substance – and two suspects, who were detained.
The suspects, nationals of the Dominican Republic whose names were not released, were transferred to Customs and Border Patrol officials in Puerto Rico.
Operation Caribbean Guard was put in place to interdict drug shipments into Puerto Rico. The Department of Homeland Security measure involves several U.S. agencies, including the Coast Guard, along with Caribbean law enforcement agencies.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Drew Pearson praised the mission’s recent successes, including three major seizures in recent weeks.
“Coast Guard and Caribbean regional law enforcement partners have collectively detained a total of three vessels, six smugglers and kept over 4,847 pounds of cocaine from reaching criminal hands,” he said in a prepared statement, referring to the three seizures. “Our efforts to stem the flow of drugs into Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as far off shore as possible is unwavering and will reduce crime across the region.”
Working with Caribbean partners, the U.S. Coast Guard has captured 21,711 pounds of cocaine and 1,576 pounds of marijuana – valued at a combined US$198 million – in 19 separate cases since May 21 under Operation Caribbean Guard.
That mission complements Operation Martillo, which gathers Western Hemisphere and European nations in an effort to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.
On Dec. 29 under Operation Martillo, a patrol aircraft notified crews that a suspicious go-fast boat was moving through the western Caribbean. U.S. Coast Guard crews from the Cutter Forward responded.
The suspects threw bales of cocaine into the water in an attempt to escape. A separate crew later recovered 17 bales of narcotics while the Forward pursued the suspects.
Meanwhile, a helicopter was deployed from the Coast Guard Cutter Confidence. It fired warning and disabling shots at the go-fast boat, which was then boarded by Coast Guard crew. The four suspected drug traffickers were detained, but their names were not released.
Using the cutter and helicopter together “is a winning combination that enables us to make important contributions to regional and Homeland Security,” Cmdr. Greg Wisener, the Cutter Forward’s commanding officer, said in a prepared statement. “Interdiction at sea is a highly efficient and cost-effective way to” combat criminal organizations.