U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Seized 375 Kilograms of Cocaine
By Dialogo February 22, 2013
Operating as part of Operation Martillo, the U.S. Coast Guard seized 375 kilograms of pure cocaine hidden in the fake bottom of an outboard boat that was sailing on international waters off the coast of Ecuador on January 21.
The mission, with a Diálogo reporter onboard, detained three drug traffickers, to be taken to the relevant authorities once their nationalities were established.
After a short pursuit, the U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Team (LEDET) onboard the U.S. Navy guided-missile frigate USS Gary detained the suspicious vessel without using force.
LEDET members seized the cocaine and captured the alleged criminals, then sank the small boat as a hazard to navigation. The confiscated drugs are worth about US$27 million.
“These types of seizures are part of our regular job during Operation Martillo. We managed to do it without using the helicopters onboard the frigate, since the USS Gary’s speed … was enough to intercept the criminals,” said the officer in charge of the U.S. Coast Guard LEDET onboard the frigate.
The USS Gary is using its sophisticated radar, night vision and heat detection equipment to locate suspects by literally “sweeping” its way through a 300-kilometer range, to detect any type of vessel or aircraft circulating within that area on international waters.
“This time, the vessel we detained was slightly bigger than a rowboat,” Gary’s commanding officer, Cmdr. James E. Brown said. “Our systems are capable of easily detecting such a low-profile boat, with such a large drug cargo.”
Operation Martillo has been very successful in the Caribbean, “and with the cooperation of regional partner nations’ Armed Forces, along with the U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) strategies, we are also monitoring the Pacific area to detect criminals smuggling people, drugs, and weapons, and enforcing the corresponding law,” Brown stated.
Operation Martillo is a coordinated strategy for regional security to counter organized crime in Central America, not only in the Caribbean, but also in the Pacific, with the participation of 14 countries: Canada, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.