WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – The Mexico-Central America corridor, which includes the Western Pacific and the Caribbean, is the “main threat vector” of narco-trafficking into the United States, Adm. Charles Michel, the director of the Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S), said on June 19.
“The massive shipments by sea, frequently through the Central American countries, are contributing to the instability and corruption in Central America, Mexico and along the [U.S.’s] Southwest border,” he said, confirming what was reported by U.S. defense sources to the House of Representatives.
Michel’s task force, addressing the National Security Committee, said the area is home to 90% of the total documented movement of cocaine entering the U.S.
“Illicit trafficking threatens our country at every land, air and sea border and challenges the sovereignty of our many international partners. In particular, the tactics, techniques and procedures employed by drug traffickers are methodologies that can be used by anyone wanting to move illicit people and/or cargo – including terrorists,” he said. “The established routes, proven methods of conveyances, built-in logistics, communications, and command and control networks could be leveraged by a variety of groups seeking to do harm to the United States.”
Semi-submersible boats are the most “insidious” threat to the United States because they’re difficult to detect. The vessels also are being used more frequently by narco-traffickers, as 60 had been detected since the first one was spotted in 2006. Semi-submersible boats transport about 330 tons of narcotics annually, Michel said.
The JIATF-S has been involved in the seizure of 1,997 metric tons (2,201 tons) of cocaine during the past decade.
“We are relentless and committed while operating in a resource-constrained environment,” Michel said. “Our goal is to put drug traffickers at risk of interdiction and arrest at each and every step of their journey. We work very hard in constant support of law enforcement to ensure this all occurs seamlessly with the most effective use of our resources.”
James Dinkins, the director of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), agreed with Michel that transnational criminal organizations are routinely using go-fast boats to make nighttime runs to the United States.
“Due to an increase in patrols by the Office of Customs and Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, the narco-trafficking organizations are moving away from the littoral and more to the north to unload their contraband,” Dinkins said.
Donna Buccella, assistant commissioner of the Customs and Border Patrol, added Mexican traffickers also are using recreational vessels to transport narcotics.
Adm. William Lee, the deputy director of operations for the Coast Guard, said his military personnel conduct Operation Sea Serpent – in conjunction with the Mexican Army and Navy –off the coast of Texas every trimester.
“These operations are ongoing and we have the intention of continuing them,” he said.