SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded approximately 21 tons of cocaine seized in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean from the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche in San Diego, Monday.
An additional eight tons of contraband seized in the region was transferred ashore in Miami earlier in the day.
The drugs were interdicted in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean drug transit zone off the coast of Central and South America from February-May by the crews of U.S. Coast Guard cutters as well as those of U.S. and Canadian navy vessels with U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments aboard.
The San Diego haul represents 27 smuggling vessel interdictions and three bale recovery operations:
- The Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk was responsible for 11 cases, seizing an estimated eight tons of cocaine.
- The cutter Waesche was responsible for eight cases, yielding some 2.5 tons.
- The Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba nabbed one load totaling approximately 1,300 pounds.
- The Coast Guard Cutter Valiant intercepted one of approximately 1,490 pounds.
- The USS Lassen and an embarked Coast Guard LEDET is credited with five interdictions stopping about three tons of drugs.
- The Royal Canadian Navy ship HMCS Saskatoon and a Coast Guard LEDET recovered more than 2,700 pounds of cocaine in bales found adrift in the region.
- HMCS Edmonton and a LEDET stopped two smuggling vessels with some 2,200 pounds of contraband.
“Here’s the deal that drug smugglers make with their customers — ‘We do the dirty work, you do the drugs’,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. “The transnational criminal organizations behind the drug trade spread violence and instability wherever they operate. There are thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year from cocaine overdose, and the production, transportation, sale and use of cocaine exact a very heavy human and social price throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond.”
“I’m extremely proud of all the crews at sea, in the air and ashore who helped plan, coordinate, and perform these drug busts,” Servidio said. “Their hard work denies the drug trafficking organizations millions of dollars in resources and helps save lives by keeping these drugs off our streets.”
The eight tons offloaded in Miami represent the interdiction of 11 suspected smuggling vessels and one bale recovery operation.
Five tons were from five interdictions made by the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca. Three tons were from another seven interdictions by the USS Lassen and the embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment.
U.S. Coast Guardsmen operating from Coast Guard cutters, U.S Navy ships and international partner nation ships seized more than 128,000 pounds of cocaine in the Eastern Pacific drug traffic zone so far in fiscal year 2016.
Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play an important role in counter-drug operations. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in California, on the East Coast, and in the Caribbean.
Transnational organized crime groups are vying for control of illicit trafficking routes and power in numerous Latin American countries, resulting in increased violence and instability. This has led to record high homicide rates in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean with eight of the 10 countries with the highest homicide rates in the world in this region.
The Coast Guard has increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied military or law enforcement aircraft or vessels. The interdictions, including the actual boarding are led and conducted by Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific are conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District headquartered in Alameda.
Waesche is a 418-foot National Security Cutter homeported in Alameda, California. Mohawk, Escanaba and Seneca are 270-foot medium-endurance cutters home ported in Key West and Boston respectively. Valiant is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter from Mayport, Fla. Lassen is an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer also home ported in Mayport. Saskatoon and Edmonton are Kingston class coastal defense vessels based in Esquimalt, B.C.