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Coast Guard seizes $377M worth of cocaine, marijuana

By Darryl Coote
Coast Guard seizes $377M worth of cocaine, marijuana
The Coast Guard Cutter James crew stands aboard the vessel Tuesday in Port Everglades, Florida, where they are scheduled to offload nearly 40,000 pounds of narcotics. Photo by  Seaman Erik Villa Rodriguez/U.S. Coast Guard

Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast Guard said it has seized more than 19 tons of narcotics worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the waters of the Caribbean Basin and the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter James is scheduled to offload in Florida's Port Everglades approximately 28,000 pounds of cocaine worth about $367 million and 11,000 pounds of marijuana valued at $10.1 million that were seized in 18 separate incidents by 10 cutter crews from suspected drug smuggling vessels off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South America, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

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"These drugs will not reach Main Street, U.S.A., due to the efforts of the James crew and other Coast Guard cutters involved in these interdictions," Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commanding officer of Cutter James, said in a statement.

He said the Coast Guard worked in cooperation with regional partner nations, including Columbia and Costa Rica, along with other agencies involved in Operation Martillo "to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States."

According to U.S. Southern Command, Operation Martillo is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere mission targeting drug trafficking routes in Central American coastal waters that was launched on Jan. 15, 2012, and has been responsible for seizing 693 tons of cocaine, detaining 581 vessels and aircraft and arresting 1,863 suspects.

Randall said due to this cooperative mission, "we maintain an offensive against criminal networks and criminal organizations."

The announcement follows the Coast Guard dropping off approximately 6,900 pounds of cocaine worth more than $92 million in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 17 as part of Operation Martillo, which Southern Command says is a "critical component" of the U.S. government's coordinated interagency regional security strategy to combat organized crime.

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