HomeNewsBriefUS Court Ruling is Blow to Sea Drug Interdictions
BRIEF

US Court Ruling is Blow to Sea Drug Interdictions

PANAMA / 3 DEC 2012 BY JACK DAVIS EN

A court’s ruling that the United States cannot prosecute traffickers caught in other countries’ territorial waters could hinder its maritime anti-narcotics operations in Latin America, at a time when drug trafficking by sea is on the rise, reported the Miami Herald.

A November ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta declared that the US Congress overstepped its remit when drafting the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, which allowed the United States to prosecute drug traffickers caught in other countries’ waters. According to the Miami Herald, the ruling arose out of an investigation into the legality of the 2010 arrest and prosecution of four Panamanian drug traffickers. The four, arrested after the US Coast Guard alerted Panamanian authorities, were later sentenced in Miami.

A defense lawyer for the Panamanian traffickers told the Miami Herald, “This [was] basically a Panamanian internal matter, and their government [said], ‘United States, you clean it up for us.'”

If the ruling is upheld, it will prevent the United States from prosecuting suspects caught within a 12-mile boundary (19.3 km) of any foreign country and could hinder US authorities from entering the 12-mile zone themselves when carrying out anti-narcotics operations.

InSight Crime Analysis

This announcement, though still under review and open to being challenged by the Justice Department, could have an impact on US maritime interdictions in the region. Seizures have increased under US-led joint anti-narcotics effort Operation Martillo, which focused on Central America. Launched in January this year, US-led operations have seized over $2 billion worth of drugs, and saw an increase of over 30 percent in drug seizures in Central America in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2011.

However, the ruling will not affect the interception of vessels outside the 12-mile boundary, which is where the majority occur. Miami attorney David Weinstein told the Miami Herald that the ruling was unlikely to affect the war on drugs, but would probably increase “the level and depth of communications between the United States and foreign countries,” as US forces would not be able to act unilaterally.

Go-fast boats are an increasingly popular method for trafficking narcotics up the Central American coastline as a result of the focus in recent years on cracking down on the US/Mexico border as a trafficking corridor.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 5 APR 2016

Newly leaked documents from a Panama-based law firm connect a member of FIFA's ethics commission to three individuals facing bribery…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 31 JAN 2020

Authorities in Panama have ended a nearly decade-long ban on the importation of firearms into the country, a move that…

ELITES AND CRIME / 29 SEP 2016

Panama's foreign ministry has formally requested that the United States extradite the country's former President Ricardo Martinelli, a move that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…