A newly inaugurated radar in western Puerto Rico will form a key part of the government's intensified campaign against drug trafficking, authorities said.
The radar became active in January and is manned by a team of 25 members of the National Guard, costing some $30,000 for every two weeks of operation. It is capable of tracking aerial traffic over the Haitian border with the Dominican Republic, reports El Nuevo Dia.
The National Guard used to operate a second radar system in the same region, but it has been deactivated for the past three months, the newspaper reported. So far, the National Guard have not announced any arrests or seizures as a result of the new radar.
The head of the National Guard unit which operates the radar said it was particularly important to monitor the Dominican Republic, where go-fast boats transport cocaine shipments to Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico's northern coast and the eastern island of Vieques are used as a launching area for drug flights headed to the United States.
National Guard commander General Juan Medina Lamela said that between 10 to 15 tons of cocaine arrive in Puerto Rico each year.
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The activation of the radar forms part of a broader strategy against increased drug trafficking in Puerto Rico, which involves the deployment of the National Guard along the island's coastlines.
According to Medina, since the National Guard were deployed in mid-January, some $250,000 worth of narcotics and related illicit materials have been seized. Depending on how long the security surge lasts, authorities in Puerto Rico will likely face continued pressure to show results from National Guard operations. The island is expected to receive further aid from the United States, as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to send reinforcements to the island.
It would make sense for Puerto Rico's radar system to prioritize tracking the movement of suspicious vessels from the Dominican Republic. While the Dominican Republic claims to have almost totally eliminated the number of drug flights moving through the island, maritime trafficking operations are believed to be increasing.