27 TONS OF COCAINE SEIZED
Two Pacific Fleet ships on counternarcotics missions to the Eastern
Pacific have confiscated more than 27 tons of cocaine off the
Galapagos Islands and Mexico -- among the largest maritime seizures of
cocaine in U.S. history.
By the numbers
54,000: Pounds of cocaine seized in two recent raids near Mexico and
the Galapagos Islands. It is the largest amount ever seized at sea.
240,518: Pounds of cocaine seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in the past
year, a record.
Value of drugs seized in the past year.
The recent seizures included 13 tons of cocaine, with a street value
of more than $750 million, found Friday aboard the fishing vessel San
Jose about 1,000 miles south of Manzanillo, Mexico. The Pearl
Harbor-based frigate USS Crommelin led the effort.
The frigate has disrupted four narcotics-smuggling operations,
confiscated nearly $1 billion worth of cocaine, and detained 32
suspected smugglers since reporting May 20 for a six-month mission,
the Navy said.
By comparison, after returning from a six-month tour to the Eastern
Pacific last year, the frigate intercepted six tons of cocaine.
On Sept. 17, the frigate USS Curts out of San Diego intercepted the
fishing vessel Lina Maria about 300 miles southwest of the Galapagos
Islands with 14.52 tons of cocaine aboard. Ten crew members were arrested.
The seizures bring the total of cocaine seized by the Coast Guard this
year to a record 240,518 pounds -- worth $7.7 billion. That includes
4,387 pounds of the drug seized Sept. 9 by the Honolulu-based Coast
Guard cutter Jarvis after it was jettisoned during a chase with a
speedboat off Mexico.
Navy ships are routinely sent to the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean in
support of the U.S. war on drugs. The Pentagon entered the drug war in
the late 1980s, and frigates like the Crommelin have played a key role
as the end of the Cold War eliminated the prospect of a confrontation
with a Soviet superpower on the high seas.
The latest seizures had support from Helicopter Anti-Submarine
Squadron Light (HSL) 37 from Kane'ohe Bay and HSL 45 out of San Diego,
in addition to U.S. Navy P-3 maritime patrol aircraft.
The multi-agency effort, "Operation Panama Express," is a longstanding
organized crime and drug task force based out of Tampa, Fla.
"The success of these operations can only be credited to the synergy
developed between the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard and other agencies in
the (area of operation)," said Rear Adm. Vinson E. Smith, the
commander of naval assets in the Southern Command area.
Military anti-drug missions have become a part of the war on terrorism
and efforts to eliminate financing for insurgents, but some have
questioned the effectiveness of the effort.
Joseph Miranda, a former instructor at the U.S. Army JFK Special
Warfare Center, concluded that the United States cannot win the war on
drugs, and that to do so militarily would require a doubling of the
U.S. armed forces.