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Coast Guard, International Partners Seize Cocaine
by U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Brandyn Hill
April 15, 2020

The U.S. Coast Guard and Costa Rican authorities seized approximately 1,700 pounds of cocaine on April 9, 2020 with an estimated value of more than $29 million from a fishing boat in international waters of the Pacific Ocean off Central America.

While on patrol, a Coast Guard cutter’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew identified a fishing boat suspected of smuggling narcotics early last week and requested the assistance of a Costa Rican Air Surveillance Service (Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea) maritime patrol aircraft.

The Coast Guard cutter’s small boat arrived on scene with the fishing vessel, Amanda M, homeported in Costa Rica, with four suspected smugglers and received authorization to board the vessel.

Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC-913) members conduct a boarding of the Amanda M fishing vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central America, April 9, 2020. During the boarding, the crew discovered several false compartments where they were able to uncover 1,700 pounds of cocaine (bottom right inset) and transfer four suspected smugglers to Costa Rica for legal action. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordan Akiyam)
Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC-913) members conduct a boarding of the Amanda M fishing vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central America, April 9, 2020. During the boarding, the crew discovered several false compartments where they were able to uncover 1,700 pounds of cocaine (bottom right inset) and transfer four suspected smugglers to Costa Rica for legal action. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Coast Guard photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordan Akiyam)

Coast Guard members discovered several false compartments throughout the fishing boat, where they were able to uncover 1,700 pounds of cocaine by Thursday morning.

“This interdiction is a great example of what we can accomplish with strong international partners,” said Rear Adm. Peter Gautier, the 11th Coast Guard District commander. “Our Coast Guard crews performed an exhaustive boarding and search of Amanda M, recovering $29 million worth of cocaine. Our Costa Rican partners played a major role in the success of this operation which will disrupt criminal networks in the region during this major surge.”

The Coast Guard transferred the four suspected smugglers to Costa Rican authorities for further legal actions.

On April 1, U.S. Southern Command began enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere to disrupt the flow of drugs in support of Presidential National Security Objectives. Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations. 

The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys in districts across the nation. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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