Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton recently offloaded 50,550 pounds of cocaine and heroin worth more than $679 million wholesale, which marks a record-breaking year in cocaine seizures for the service. The drugs were seized in 25 different interdictions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean beginning in early August.
An increased presence of U.S. and allied forces in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, coupled with increased coca production in South America, has led to a significant increase in narcotics removal in the drug transit zones off South and Central America. Criminals routinely move cocaine from South America to Central America and Mexico via maritime routes aboard fishing vessels, commercial cargo ships, low-profile vessels and self-propelled semi-submersible vessels.
Each year, the Coast Guard and partner agencies remove about 20 percent of known drug shipments bound for the U.S. Annually, the Coast Guard interdicts more than three times the amount of cocaine seized at our borders and within the U.S. combined. These facts highlight the challenges as Coast Guard crews surge forces to respond to the threat of transnational organized crime. “We’ve tripled our removal rates but there’s a lot more work to be done,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft.
Coast Guard crews and their interagency partners, operating in a six million square mile drug transit zone, have stopped over 455,000 pounds of cocaine worth over $6 billion wholesale in fiscal year 2017, which is another record year for the service in counterdrug operations. This showcases the threat posed by dangerous cartels, gangs and criminal groups who make up extensive transnational organized crime networks. It also highlights the commitment shown by the Coast Guard and its interagency partners’ efforts to detect, interdict, investigate and prosecute operatives for these criminal networks. The drugs offloaded from Stratton will not fuel instability, violence and addiction in our hemisphere.
Despite the increased availability of illegal drugs, low prices and purity, the Coast Guard continues to work to glean information to dismantle dangerous criminal organizations and reduce the supply of illegal drugs.
“Today our nation faces significant emerging threats on our southern borders and transit zones,” Zukunft said. “We are seeing the rapid growth of transnational criminal organizations that fuel violence and instability throughout the region. These criminal networks are vying for illicit markets including human and drug smuggling. It will take unity of effort across government to overcome these challenges.”
“The Coast Guard has never been more relevant or more important to domestic security and regional stability. Our exceptional international reputation is a direct result of the work our Coast Guard men and women do every day,” said Zukunft.