The United States Coast Guard has stopped and seized over $700 million dollars worth of cocaine from smugglers attempting to enter the U.S. from Central and South America. The report concludes two months of U.S. Coast Guard vessels intercepting smugglers and traffickers, bringing in 52,900 pounds of cocaine valued at $729 million, Washington Examiner reports.
Coast Guard spokesman Chad Saylor confirmed to the outlet that fifty-seven suspected smugglers had been arrested.
Per the report:
Three ships from the Coast Guard’s Medium Endurance Cutter fleet returned last week from deployments to the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are high drug transit zones for cartels trying to ship product from Central and South America to North America.
Coast Guard Cutters Venturous, Steadfast, and Alert seized the majority of the cocaine, aided by Hamilton, Tampa, and Mohawk.
Each trafficker was first spotted by other military or law enforcement personnel who then alerted the Joint Interagency Task Force-South based in Key West, Fla., and a specific boat is ordered to respond.
An incredible effort was led by the Astoria-based Coast Guard where they seized 12,000 pounds of cocaine valued at $188.7 million over a 56-day period, the most cocaine seized for the ship during a single patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.
According to the report, the drug traffickers use low-profile go-fast ships which are designed to move large quantities of drugs quickly and out of obvious view. These ships ride close to the water and are camouflaged to remain out of view.
“The crew worked incredibly hard during this patrol, overcoming many challenges,” said Commander Tobias Reid, U.S. Coast Guard reports. “They pulled through the casualties and achieved incredible results, a true testament to their professionalism and tenacity. I am very proud and humbled to be their leader.”
A similar patrol mission was conducted from the Caribbean Sea, through the Panama Canal, and into the Eastern Pacific. The mission lasted 61 days.
Per a U.S. Coast Guard news release:
The crew, supplemented by members from the Coast Guard’s Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team (PACTACLET) and Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) transited more than 11,000 miles during the patrol. The first three weeks of the patrol was in the Caribbean Sea before transiting through the Panama Canal to patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South America. During their patrol, the crew interdicted two high-speed go-fast boats, seizing 3,100 pounds of cocaine and 250 pounds of marijuana, and apprehending six suspected smugglers.
“Low profile go-fast vessels are typically painted to blend with the water and are designed to ride low in the water to reduce their radar signature making them more difficult for law enforcement agencies to detect,” Lt. Cmdr. Dave Ratner, executive officer aboard the St. Petersburg, Fla.,-based CGC Venturous, said in a statement.
Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda also complimented the work of his vessel, the Steadfast, for their role in seizing the large quantities of drugs before they were able to make it into the U.S.
“I continue to be impressed by the dedication and tenacity of the crews aboard our cutters and the difficult, dangerous missions they perform,” said Balmaceda. “Their hard work means two things. First, more than eight tons of cocaine won’t reach our streets and add to the drug-related deaths and health problems facing our nation. And second, hundreds of millions of dollars are being denied to transnational criminal organizations who spread instability, death and despair wherever they operate.”