U.S. Coast Guard has seized 18 tons of cocaine from cartels since March

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche offloaded roughly 18 tons of cocaine seized by eight cutters in the drug transit
zone in the Eastern Pacific from late March through June.

During the last two years, the Coast Guard surged personnel and resources to known drug transit zones, increased intelligence and investigative resources and strengthened interagency and international partnerships aimed at reducing the threat of transnational organized crime in the Western Hemisphere.

Cartels, gangs and criminal groups have converged to form intricate transnational organized crime networks that fuel the nation’s opiate epidemic, spread violence throughout Central and South America and have a presence in nearly every single major city in the U.S. The same criminal networks move heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs plaguing the nation.

Coast Guard Cutter Waesche crewmembers intercept a suspected low-profile smuggling vessel seizing an estimated 5,550 pounds of cocaine worth more than $74 million while on patrol off the coast of Central America, June 8, 2017. Waesche is a 418-foot long National Security Cutter homeported at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, Calif., outfitted with the most advanced command, control, and communications equipment for detecting and disrupting transnational organized crime networks. 

The Coast Guard Cutter Valiant conducted counter drug operations during an Eastern Pacific Ocean deployment from April to June 2017. During their deployment, the Valiant crew seized an estimated $147 million worth of cocaine, assisted in the removal of another $170 million of contraband interdicted by other Coast Guard cutters and apprehended 10 suspected drug smugglers. 

The load of cocaine resulted from 15 interdictions of suspected drug- smuggling vessels, known as pangas, and the capture of bales of the illegal narcotic dumped by suspected smugglers.

“Our nation faces significant threats posed by transnational organized- crime networks that spread violence and instability throughout the Western Hemisphere,” said Capt. James Passarelli, commanding officer of the Waesche.

The captain added that his crew “meets those threats head-on, as far from the U.S. border as possible.”

During fiscal 2016, the Coast Guard seized more than 416,600 pounds of cocaine and took 585 suspected smugglers into custody in the Eastern Pacific, according to officials with the federal agency.

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