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US Coast Guard Secures Water Borders, Reels In Bails of Cocaine and Hooks Drug Runners

Operation Martillo, seized ‘approximately 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in bulk cash, 581 vessels and aircraft and the arrest of 1,863 detainees.’

While high seas piracy is once again creating undue wake for maritime cargo shipping companies, the reverse is also true. The latest haul by a multi-agency interdiction operation resulted in the US Coast Guard (USCG) seizing a whopping $56 million in cocaine and arresting eight water-borne drug runners.

While OpsLens Contributor Dr. Katherine Harris reported on the resurgence of high seas piracy incidents off both the east and west coasts of Africa—particularly Somalia and Nigeria—the west coast of Florida received one of the latest volumes of cocaine that, before national security interdiction efforts, was sailing for the streets of America. In the USCG press release announcing the May 3rd finale, a total of 3,825 pounds of bundled cocaine was transferred to land-based custody.

The bails of pure cocaine were transported by UCSG Cutter Tarpon and turned over to federal law enforcement authorities at the US Coast Guard Station in St. Petersburg, Florida, a Gulf of Mexico port. The poisonous powder once destined for ingestion is now marked for destruction.

Dubbed Operation Martillo, the interdiction efforts commenced in 2012 and culminated in huge dividends, among which were “approximately 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in bulk cash, 581 vessels and aircraft and the arrest of 1,863 detainees.” Not bad at all! And this is only a fraction of the national security victories involving the USCG and its partner law enforcers, per a USCG media release  summarizing the operation’s humble victory:

“Overall, this offload represents our recent success in securing our borders and preventing illegal, regionally destabilizing narcotics from reaching our streets,” said Cmdr. Willy Carmichael, assistant branch chief of Coast Guard 7th District Response Enforcement. “It is truly an interagency and international effort that directly supports the commandant’s Western Hemisphere strategy.”

In light of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions casting the Justice Department net far and wide, particularly severing the tentacles of transnational criminal organizations, this latest catch puts a dent in the drug cartels’ plans and a check-mark in the “Win” column tabulating Pres. Donald Trump’s border security initiatives.

As AG Sessions outlined during an April 18, 2017 meeting with other attorney generals and members of the Organized Crime Council, “We will secure our border, expand immigration enforcement and choke off supply lines.”

Further propping and supporting the Trump administration’s goals, AG Sessions unleashed the dogs, saying: “We will find you. We will devastate your networks. We will starve your revenue sources, deplete your ranks and seize your profits. We will not concede a single block or street corner to your vicious tactics.”

Although it does not specifically cover 20,000 leagues under the sea or any particular maritime coordinates, Operation Martillo is nevertheless a byproduct of the message he conveyed to his cadre of conviction-seeking prosecutors.

According to the US Geological Survey, 326 million cubic miles of water cover Earth, equating to a 72-percent fluid environment.

The plausibility of detecting and physically ensnaring these drug-running vessels among the vastness of our planet’s waters is a proverbial needle-in-a-haystack probability. It underscores the significant potential of poisons floating in from afar.

As with all law enforcement contingencies dedicated to specific types of investigatory skills and venues, uniformed seafarers with the US Coast Guard, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are out patrolling the often-turbulent seas with a scope of netting quasi-pirates seeking to spread contraband on US terrain.

As defined by Commander Willy Carmichael in a USCG news release:

“Martillo is an international operation focused on sharing information and bringing together air, land and maritime assets from the US Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as Western Hemisphere and European partner nation agencies, to counter illicit trafficking.”

Besides drugs and “dirty” money, weapons are also seized, diminishing the capacity of firepower reaching the violent hands of drug-running outfits in America.

Recently, President Trump honored the latest USCG graduates who, during National Police Week, graduated the academy and obtained commission necessary to hit the waters and make waves for the drug-runners. Giving his speech at the USCG commencement ceremony on May 17, 2017 Pres. Trump included:

“In the Coast Guard, you don’t run from danger, you chase it. Think of the glorious mission that awaits. You will secure our harbors, our waterways, and our borders. You will partner with our allies to advance our security interests at home and abroad. And you will pursue the terrorists, you will stop the drug smugglers, and you will seek to keep out all who would do harm to our country—all who can never, ever love our country.”

The ideological platform upon which President Trump campaigned and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions attested in America’s thrust to secure our borders, “to interdict and dismantle transnational criminal organizations,” plots obliteration of crime syndicates from peddling their wares in the US. Maritime dividends in Martillo are examples quelling illicit activities launched from afar. “Martillo” means “hammer” or “judge,” and I’d say justice has been served by hitting the nail square on the head, no chum necessary.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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