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MIAMI – The U.S. Coast Guard, one of the military units participating in Operation Martillo, seized 3,532 pounds of cocaine worth US$43.2 million.
Crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Northland seized the cocaine, stashed in 54 bales, off a 35-foot go-fast vessel in the Caribbean Sea on March 3.
Operation Martillo is an international operation that gathers Latin American, Western Hemisphere and European nations and the United States in an effort to curtail illicit trafficking routes on both coasts of the Central American isthmus.
The operation intends to disrupt organized crime operations by limiting their ability to use Central America as a transit zone.
“This successful seizure by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Northland is just the latest of several recent interdictions to occur under Operation Martillo,” said Capt. Brendan McPherson, 7th Coast Guard District chief of enforcement.
While on patrol in the Caribbean Sea, Northland’s embarked helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) spotted a go-fast vessel with four crewmembers and bales on deck.
Northland crewmembers boarded the go-fast vessel, detained four suspected smugglers and seized the contraband, which tested positive for cocaine.
Also assisting in the interdiction was the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Pea Island, a 110-foot patrol boat out of Key West, Fla.
“I am extremely proud of everyone who contributed to making this successful interdiction in the early hours of the morning, and in less than perfect weather conditions,” said Cmdr. Dale V. Shepardson, Northland’s commanding officer. “More importantly, the crew feels proud that they took a large quantity of drugs off the streets, and that they successfully completed the mission we were sent out to do.”
Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States are participating in the operation, which started in the middle of January.
The cutter Northland is a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter home ported in Portsmouth, Va. The ship was commissioned Dec. 17, 1984, and despite its 27 years of service in an aging fleet, its crew successfully carries out law enforcement, search and rescue, and homeland security missions.