Operation Martillo: US, Nicaraguan forces seize US$32M in cocaine

Five suspected narcotics smugglers arrested.
WRITER-ID | 15 June 2012

A Coast Guard Cutter Valiant boarding officer examines the contraband intercepted on May 31 that tested positive for cocaine. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)

MIAMI, U.S.A. – Coast Guard Cutter Valiant and its crew, assisted by two small crafts of the Nicaraguan Army, intercepted a go-fast vessel on May 31 carrying about 2,654 pounds of cocaine while on patrol in the Caribbean Sea as part of Operation Martillo.

The seized drugs had a wholesale value of as much as US$32.5 million.

Partner nations are participating in Operation Martillo, a joint effort of American and European nations to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.

Valiant’s embarked helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, which was working with the U.S. Navy and other international partners, spotted the go-fast vessel outfitted for smuggling with five crewmembers aboard and suspicious bales on deck.

The crew on the go-fast boat ignored repeated orders from the Coast Guard to stop and began steering erratically to evade capture. The crew was observed throwing bales into the water.

In an effort to stop the boat, the helicopter fired warning shots ahead of the vessel’s bow.

The U.S. Coast Guard seized 2,654 pounds of cocaine, worth about US$32.5 million, on May 31 off a boat in the Caribbean Sea. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)

When the vessel’s crew ignored the warning shots, the helicopter crew fired at and disabled one of the go-fast’s outboard engines, allowing Valiant’s law enforcement team to board and take five suspected narcotics smugglers into custody.

The Nicaraguan Navy deployed two small crafts to aid the Coast Guard in the recovery of the contraband. Forty-three bales, which tested positive for cocaine, were recovered.

“It was immensely gratifying for me to see our seasoned, proficient shipmates leading our new folks, and having both groups unite with our embarked aircrew to pull off a perfectly executed interdiction helping to keep drugs off our streets,” said Cmdr. John Dettleff, commanding officer aboard the Valiant.

The five detainees were transferred to federal law enforcement officials.

The cutter Valiant is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Miami.

Despite its 45 years of service, the Valiant successfully carries out its missions of law enforcement, search and rescue and homeland security. The Valiant and other medium endurance cutters are slated for replacement by a new class.

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