U.S., Dominican Republic agents seize 2,000 pounds of cocaine

By Dialogo
January 16, 2013

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Dominican and United States counter-narcotics agents seized nearly 2,000 pounds of cocaine in the second major maritime drug seizure in less than a week near a small Caribbean bay.
The Dominican National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD), Air Force, Navy and National Police worked with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Coast Guard to seize 900 kilograms (1,984.2 pounds) of cocaine that drug traffickers threw off a go-fast boat, authorities said Jan. 14.
The boat, likely coming from Colombia, was en route to Ocoa Bay, a quiet fishing area on the country’s southern coastline, west of the capital, Santo Domingo, the DNCD said in a prepared statement.
DEA agents spotted the boat in the early morning of Jan. 13 and notified Dominican authorities, who responded by sending three Super Tucano aircraft, a helicopter and four military boats. Authorities said the suspected drug traffickers dumped 36 bales of cocaine in international waters about 70 nautical miles south of Dominican soil.
The U.S. Coast Guard recovered the narcotics and sent them to be processed in Puerto Rico. A Coast Guard spokesman said the shipment was still being evaluated and declined to provide additional details.
Dominican authorities continued pursuing the 40-foot, Colombian-made Eduardaño-brand boat for several hours and dozens of nautical miles. The suspects, however, turned back toward international waters and escaped.
“They decided to throw the cocaine shipment in the water, comprising 36 bales – each one containing between 25 and 30 packets – with each [bale] weighing between 25 and 30 pounds,” the DNCD said in a prepared statement. “In total, there were between 800 and 900 packets of the drugs.”
The shipment was the second major bust to take place in the same area in less than a week.
On Jan. 9, the three Dominican military agencies teamed with U.S. agencies to seize 1,870 kilograms (4,122.6 pounds) of cocaine near the same bay. Authorities arrested four men in that case, including former Navy Lt. José Luis Arias Cornelio. Arias allegedly was tied to the group trying to bring the narcotics into the country.
That shipment also likely was coming from Colombia or Venezuela, authorities said. They called the seizure “a significant blow” to drug trafficking and a win for Operation Sea Wall in which U.S. agencies are partnering with Caribbean authorities to cut down drug shipments.
The DNCD praised the success of recent missions, including one in 2012 in which Dominican authorities seized a record amount of cocaine, and pledged to continue working side-by-side with U.S. counterparts.
“We also count on the help of anti-narcotics agencies in Colombia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and those of Puerto Rico that allow us to have total control of our air and maritime space in confronting the grave threat these enormous drug shipments that we’re seizing represent,” the DNCD said in a prepared statement.
[DNCD (Dominican Republic), 14/01/2013; La Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador), 14/01/2013; El Espectador (Mexico), 14/01/2013]