The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded 328 kilograms of cocaine and 3,100 pounds of marijuana at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach Friday morning, worth a combined estimated wholesale value of $13.7 million.
The drugs came from an interdiction carried out as part of Operation Martillo, an international operation that is focused on countering the use of Central American littorals and waterways as shipping routes for illicit drugs, weapons and cash.
On May 22, crew members aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bear and Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant responded to reports from Colombian Air Force patrols of a suspicious go-fast boat northwest of Colombia.
The vessel beached itself on St. Lucia Island and crew members recovered 14 bales of cocaine.
Less than a week later, a Coast Guard helicopter spotted yet another suspicious go-fast vessel, this time northeast of Panama. Crew members aboard the helicopter saw dozens of bales being offloaded from the vessel.
Teams recovered 62 bales of marijuana, and took four suspected drug smugglers into custody. The Costa Rican nationals were captured at sea, on a go-fast boat, allegedly smuggling a lot of marijuana into Central America. Those four are being transported to federal law enforcement officials in Miami.
"The reason why we care about that is because the vast majority of drugs that come into Central America are coming into the the United States and anywhere drugs go, corruption and violence follows, it's guaranteed," said Sherman Lacey, Commander of the Vigilant.
"We have already in the Coast Guard exceeded two billion with a 'B,' $2 billion worth of illegal drugs seized, so we are well on our way to to meeting our goal of $3 billion in illegal drugs," said Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma.
The Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant operates with about 75 crew members and they go out for weeks at a time. Their mission is threefold - drug and migrant interdiction and search and rescue.
"It's always a much more gratifying thing for the crew when they have the chance to actually catch a vessel to stop it and to come home to their family and friends and show what the last 56 days... what it resulted in," Lacey said.