Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South), a component of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), announced on February 8 its participation in Operation MARTILLO (HAMMER), a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.
The United States contribution to this multinational detection, monitoring and interdiction operation includes U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, aircraft from U.S. federal law enforcement agencies, and military and law enforcement units from various nations working together to deny transnational criminal organizations the ability to exploit these transshipment routes for the movement of narcotics, precursor chemicals, bulk cash, and weapons.
In describing the purpose of the operation, the commander of SOUTHCOM, U.S. Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, highlighted the extent of illicit trafficking in the region and its harmful impact on the lives of citizens within the widely-used transit zone.
“More than 80 percent of the cocaine destined for U.S. markets is transported via sea lanes, primarily using littoral routes through Central America,” he said. “Working with our partner nations, we intend to disrupt their operations by limiting their ability to use Central America as a transit zone.”
“Illicit trafficking jeopardizes the safety and well being of citizens of every country and has a negative influence on regional and national security,” Fraser added.
Operation MARTILLO is a critical component of the U.S. government’s coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime and the U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative.
In 2011, international and cooperative interagency efforts coordinated through JIATF South resulted in the disruption of 119 metric tons of cocaine, with a wholesale value of US$ 2.35 billion, before it could reach destinations in the United States. JIATF South’s efforts also enabled the interdiction of US$ 21 million in bulk cash destined for traffickers in Central and South America and US$ 16 million worth of black market goods.