Operation Martillo: U.S., Guatemalan forces make huge cocaine seizure

first_img SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – U.S. and Guatemalan counter-narcotics forces seized more than 998 kilograms of cocaine worth upward of US$90 million in the eastern Pacific in early March, authorities said. The interdiction was another success scored under Operation Martillo, a regional counter-narcotics mission that brings together U.S., Latin American and European countries to cut the flow of illicit drugs through Central America. The operation is led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, based in Key West, Fla., but it relies heavily on working with law enforcement and military agencies in other countries. “This latest disruption highlights the importance of cooperation with our international partners,” Tom Salter, the director of National Air Security Operations Center in Texas, said in a prepared statement. Guatemalan law enforcement officers worked with agents from the U.S. Custom and Border Protection and Navy personnel to make the seizures from two boats off the coast of Guatemala on March 8 and 9, authorities said. The first came after a Customs and Border Protection crew aboard a US Navy P-3 aircraft spotted a go-fast boat about 193 kilometers west of the Guatemalan coast. The 30-foot, twin-engine boat was traveling north and appeared suspicious, authorities said. A chase ensued, during which the boat tried to evade the aircraft. Guatemalan authorities intercepted the boat and towed it to shore for inspection. The seizure “demonstrates the capabilities of the CBP P-3 aircraft and crews which continue to disrupt the smuggling activities of transnational criminal organizations,” Salter said in a statement. In the same area, crews detected a second boat the following day. The USS Gary, a Navy frigate patrolling the eastern Pacific under Operation Martillo, confiscated the drugs. The San Diego-based Gary, manned by a U.S. Coast Guard crew, had previously scored several large seizures, including the interdiction of 499 kilograms of cocaine from a boat off the coast of Colombia in February. “It was a complex operation involving a law enforcement boarding, boat and helicopter searches, precision driving, detainee handling, and multiple deck operations, but Gary’s crew proved they were fully capable of handling it and scored a big win,” Lt. Junior Grade Christian Gotcher said in a prepared statement. By Dialogo March 22, 2013last_img

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