About 1,328 kilograms of cocaine seized from a vessel northeast of Punta San Blas, Panama, was offloaded December 16 by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Decisive as part of Operation Martillo.
The Decisive intercepted a 170-foot bulk freighter motor vessel on November 29 and, after making initial contact, deployed a small-boat crew to inderdict it on suspicion of illegal trafficking. During the operation they seized nearly $44 million worth of cocaine and captured seven suspects. Six of those arrested were placed in U.S. custody; the seventh was delivered to officials in Panama.
Operation MARTILLO is a multinational mission to crack down on illicit drug trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.
The operation, which was launched in January 2012, combines the forces of 10 countries in the Americas – Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Canada, and the United States – along with France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. They work together to combat international drug trafficking, enhance regional security, and promote peace, stability and prosperity throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.
At-sea interdictions are highly coordinated, with the security forces of the participating countries partnering to identify, stop and search suspicious vessels.
Nearly 90 percent of the cocaine that reaches the United States is trafficked through Mexico and Central America, according to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board.
Costa Rica agrees to conduct joint patrols with U.S. military
Costa Rica agreed December 16 to continue conducting joint patrols with 44 U.S. Coast Guard Vessels in a cooperative counter-narcotics operation. The country’s legislators voted to continue the pact, which allows U.S. ships to refuel and resupply in Costa Rican territory.
“Joining forces with the government of the United States puts us in a privileged status,” National Liberation Party lawmaker Antonio Álvarez Desanti told reporters. “The Costa Rican people can do nothing more than applaud the support of a nation like the U.S., which is helping us fight this terrible problem that affects our countries.”
The countries first signed an agreement to conduct joint maritime patrols targeting narcotics, illegal fishing and search and rescue missions in 1999. Lawmakers must vote on extending the pact every six months. The new extension runs from January 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015.
The joint patrols have been working. Costa Rica will seize a national record of more than 26 metric tons of cocaine in 2014, which surpasses last year’s record of 21.8 metric tons, Security Minister Celso Gamboa said on December 16.
Costa Rican law enforcement confiscated $13 million from narco-traffickers and broke up 124 national and international criminal organizations in 2014. Overall, the number of Costa Ricans involved in narco-trafficking appears to be decreasing, according to Gamboa.
“One of my principal recommendations to [Costa Rican] President Luis Guillermo Solís has been to maintain these patrols, because they have demonstrated that they are serious, they work and [the U.S.] has shown strict respect for Costa Rican sovereignty,” he told reporters on May 12. “Costa Rica decided to sign these agreements because they’ve been very valid and effective in shielding the country from the effects of [criminal] groups.”
Alleged top hit man for Clan Úsuga arrested in Spain
Spain’s Civil Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cooperated to capture the alleged leader of a team of enforcers that works for the drug trafficking group Clan Úsuga.
Law enforcement agents from the two countries captured Víctor Alfonso Mosquera Pérez, who is also known as “Palomo” or “Negro Mosquera,” on December 12 in Spain. Spanish police and DEA agents suspect Palomo went to Spain to kill operatives from a rival drug trafficking organization, on the orders of alleged Clan Úsuga leader Dario Antonio Úsuga, who is known as “Otoniel.”
Palomo is wanted in Colombia on numerous charges, but he’s also sought in the U.S. for allegedly trafficking more than a ton of cocaine into the country between 2010 and 2013. It was not immediately clear which country he would be sent to first for prosecution.