Representatives of armed forces of 18 nations met at Cartagena Naval Base, Colombia, on May 8 to deliver the results of the Orión Naval and Riverine Campaign III carried out in the first quarter of 2019. The campaign's mission is to disrupt transnational narcotrafficking networks in the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and border rivers in the region.
Orión III featured eight combined operations in the territorial waters of each participating country. The Colombian Navy, with the cooperation of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) coordinated the exercise. Authorities seized 48.3 tons of cocaine, 19.7 tons of marijuana, 1 ton of coca paste, and arrested 160 alleged narcotraffickers.
“This campaign has yielded significant results for us,” U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Pat Dequattro, director of Joint Interagency Task Force South, told Diálogo. “We value the effort and success of the 18 countries. We hope to include more agencies and other forces.”
The armed forces of Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and the United States joined the Orión III Campaign, while three countries participated as observers: Argentina, Canada, and Chile.
Colombian Navy Vice Admiral Gabriel Alfonso Pérez Garcés, commander of Naval Operations, elaborated on the work conducted with SOUTHCOM. “With their help, we made a triangular cooperation plan for maritime and riverine interdiction and intelligence with several countries in the region, where we had mobile groups and generated better results in coordination, communication, and consolidation of operations,” he said.
“The U.S. commitment is direct and permanent,” Vice Admiral Evelio Ramírez Gáfaro, commander of the Colombian Navy, told Diálogo. “Participating nations think of Orión as an effective and efficient operation. We know that more people will join.”
“Here we fight against transnational enemies. We are happy to provide surface units and to prevent criminals from using the sea,” Vice Admiral Juan Randolfo Pardo Aguilar, commander of the Guatemalan Navy, told Diálogo. “We expect to participate with more units and equipment.”
Since 2018, the Orión campaigns have seized 94 tons of cocaine and 27 tons of marijuana, valued at more than $3.3 billion. This result has a direct impact on consumption and lowers the supply in countries where the drugs would have been distributed.
“Most of the drugs leave from Ecuador; that's why operations were focused on the Pacific. Our country is greatly affected,” Ecuadorean Navy Rear Admiral Amílcar Villavicencio Palacios, commander of Naval Operations, told Diálogo. “This is a well-designed operation in the strategic, legal, and operational aspects.”