HomeNewsUS Coast Guard Makes Record Drug Haul in Pacific, Caribbean
NEWS

US Coast Guard Makes Record Drug Haul in Pacific, Caribbean

BOLIVIA / 13 AUG 2021 BY EDMUND WACKERMAN EN

The US Coast Guard unloaded 27 tons of cocaine after a three-month operation in the Pacific and Caribbean, a massive haul that underscores how maritime drug flows and cocaine production remain at all-time highs.

The cocaine and half a ton of marijuana – reported to have a retail street value of $1.4 billion – was “the largest illegal narcotic offload in Coast Guard history,” according to a news release.

During the three-month operation, which ended in early August, 10 ships stopped more than two dozen suspected drug smuggling vessels in international waters off the Pacific coasts of Central and South America and Mexico, as well as in the Caribbean. The operation was conducted alongside the Dutch and Canadian navies.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Cocaine

Coast Guard Captain Todd Vance told reporters that the number of drugs offloaded at Port Everglades in Florida on August 5 was more than double the total amount of drugs interdicted at sea in the fall of 2020. According to its website, the Coast Guard accounts for more than half of cocaine seizures by US authorities.

Other recent Coast Guard operations include an offload of three tons of cocaine in June, and a series of three interdictions in February that hauled in about four tons of cocaine.

InSight Crime Analysis

The record haul by the Coast Guard is in line with current drug trafficking trends, as traffickers shift to maritime routes to move drugs stockpiled during the pandemic.

First, even amid COVID-19, South American cocaine production continues to boom. According to the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), cocaine production increased in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia last year. A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report estimated that Colombia recorded a high of 1,228 tons of manufactured cocaine in 2020, an eight percent increase from 2019.

SEE ALSO: Colombia's Cocaine Keeps On Reaching New Heights: UNODC Report

Second, traffickers are adapting operations to closures of land borders by focusing on maritime smuggling: loading cocaine in shipping containers on commercial vessels, as well as in “go-fast” boats and submarines. Major maritime seizures have occurred in Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador this year.

Third, criminal groups are clearing stockpiles of cocaine as movement restrictions are eased, according to the 2021 UNODC World Drug Report.  In April, authorities in Puerto Rico blamed a string of large seizures on criminal groups transporting a backlog of cocaine. Central America, which serves as a waystation for cocaine shipments, is also seeing a surge in maritime trafficking. Panama and Honduras are both on track to see record cocaine seizures in 2021.

Lastly, the massive offload follows a recent expansion of maritime anti-drug operations by US Southern Command in April 2020 in response to a directive from the Trump administration. At the time, the United States deployed a phalanx of naval assets, including warships. The latest operation was far more limited in scope, consisting of mostly Coast Guard cutters and littoral combat ships.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

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.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCAINE / 23 DEC 2019

Before the call dropped, Bexy learned the hazardous details of Manuel’s journey. Desperate to find money to rebuild their home,…

COLOMBIA / 25 FEB 2013

Venezuela's National Guard found more than 5 tons of marijuana hidden in a fuel tanker in the border state of…

COCAINE / 1 SEP 2020

Authorities say a submarine intercepted off Colombia's Pacific Coast was carrying more than a ton of cocaine bound for Mexico's…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…