Approximately $150 million worth of cocaine being smuggled into the country were interdicted by the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard over the last few months.
Counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere have been ongoing since April 1 to disrupt the flow of drugs in support of Presidential National Security Objectives, after U.S. President Donald J. Trump, Attorney General William Barr and Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced coordinated efforts between General Mark Milley and the U.S. Southern Command.
As the world went on pause to “prevent the spread” of the Corona Virus, the sea lanes were empty, as oil tankers drifted listlessly and all cruise operations and leisure boats were in port. The only active boaters, then, were the smugglers, making them easy prey for U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships.
AG Barr has blamed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for his role in being a major player in the trafficking of drugs into the U.S. by allowing traffickers to use Venezuelan sea routes to transport the drugs, profiting directly from the industry and causing Venezuealan citizens much misery and despair. He issued indictments against Maduro and the Department of Justice issued a $25 million bounty for his arrest as well as his associates’ arrests.
“We estimate that somewhere between 200 and 250 metric tons of cocaine are shipped out of Venezuela by these routes per year. Those 250 tons equate to 30 million lethal doses,” AG Barr said, according to a statement.
Defense Secretary Esper echoed Barr’s remarks by saying, “Furthermore, corrupt actors, like the illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela, rely on the profits derived from the sale of narcotics to maintain their oppressive hold on power. The Venezuelan people continue to suffer tremendously due to Maduro’s criminal control over the country.”
General Mark Milley said: “We’re at war with COVID-19, we’re at war with terrorists and we are at war with the drug cartels as well. This is the United States military, you will not penetrate this country. You will not get past jump street. You’re not going to come in here and kill additional Americans. And we will marshal whatever assets are required to prevent your entry into this country to kill Americans.”
This is the United States military, you will not penetrate this country. You will not get past jump street. – General Mark Milley
Taking his cue, the Armed Forces went to work capturing boats like never before.
On May 14, The Navy ship USS Pinkney (DDG 91), an Ashleigh Burke-Class Destroyer along with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) team seized 1,400 kilograms (over 3,000 pounds) of cocaine in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
A total of 70 bales of cocaine were seized worth over $28 million wholesale value during that operation.
The cutter Paul Clark crew arrived on scene and recovered 10 bales of cocaine weighing approximately 1,000 pounds from the debris field. The cutter Joseph Tezanos crew recovered an additional bale of cocaine in the vicinity weighing approximately 100 pounds, Saturday for a total of 1,100 pounds.
Another 3,100 pounds of cocaine were seized near Alameda, California, mid-May by Coast Guard Cutter James (WMSL-754) when it intercepted a low-profile go-fast boat carrying the drugs in a hidden compartment.
The estimated total value of that seizure was $53.5 million.
Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba returned to its home port in Boston on the 22nd, following a 62 day patrol, in support of Operation Martillo in the Western Caribbean Sea, in which it seized nearly 2,000 kilograms of cocaine, valued at $60 million while working with an armed helicopter interdiction tactical squadron onboard and local Panamanian law enforcement.
Operation Martillo is a multinational detection, monitoring, and interdiction operation that consists of 20 participating nations working together to counter transnational organized crime networks and illicit trafficking in the waters along Central America.
The fight against drug cartels in the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in districts across the nation. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Caribbean Sea is conducted under the authority of the 7th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Miami, Florida. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat drug trafficking and international crime and terror. The Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations.
“We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives,” President Trump said at the time the strategy was announced in April.
“In cooperation with the 22 partner nations, U.S. Southern Command will increase surveillance, disruption and seizures of drug shipments and provide additional support for eradication efforts which are going on right now at a record pace. We’re deploying additional Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters and Air Force surveillance aircraft, doubling our capabilities in the region”