Fourteen countries are participating in Operation Martillo: Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. Chile has also contributed to the project.
“Operation Martillo demonstrates a clear commitment of the Western Hemisphere and European nations to work as partners to counter the spread of transnational criminal organizations, and to protect citizens in Central America from the violence, harm and exploitation created by these criminal networks,” the Joint Interagency Task Force South and U.S. Southern Command said.
Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S)
JIATF South is the US National Task Force for interagency counter-illicit trafficking operations, and is responsible for the detection and monitoring of suspected air and maritime drug activity in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific. JIATF South collects, processes, and disseminates counter drug information for interagency and partner nation operations.
In 2012, JIATF-S was responsible for 152 metric tons of cocaine and 21 metric tons of marijuana with a wholesale value of about $3 billion, being dismantled before it could reach destinations in the United States. JIATF South’s efforts enabled the interdiction of $7 million in bulk cash destined for traffickers in Central and South America. More than 67% of interdictions were supported by partner nations.
U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI)
The CARSI key objectives are the curtailing of trafficking and the dismantlement of transnational criminal networks in Central America, to produce a safer and more secure region where criminal organizations no longer wield the power to destabilize governments or threaten national and regional security and public safety, as well as to prevent the entry and spread of illicit drugs, violence, and transnational threats to countries throughout the region and to the United States.
Operation Martillo Successes
Operation Martillo, which was launched in January of 2012, has had impressive results with the help of its partner nations. Vessels from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Honduran Navy intercepted a sinking self-propelled semi-submersible vessel in the Western Caribbean Sea on March 30, 2012. Self-propelled semi-submersible vessels are used regularly to transport illegal narcotics in the Eastern Pacific.
From its inception through July 17, 2013, Operation Martillo has resulted in the seizure of 207,740 kilograms of cocaine and 37,397 kilograms of marijuana, 472 arrests, and the confiscation of 152 assets.
Those numbers are continuing to improve in August, as the USS Rentz and a U.S. Coast Guard Legal Detachment joined the 4th Fleet’s area of operations, being deployed to Latin America and the Caribbean as part of Operation Martillo.
In August, more than 2,123 lbs. of cocaine were seized from a fishing vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean by the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz, as part of the counter-transnational organized crime project. The seizure is worth an estimated street value of $78 million. In another seizure mid-August, 1,500 pounds of cocaine was located in a go-fast vessel, in an at-sea interdiction in the Caribbean. That drug shipment is estimated to have a wholesale value of more than $24 million.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser has spoken of the extent of illicit trafficking in the region and its harmful impact on the lives of citizens within the widely-used transit zone.
“More than 80 percent of the cocaine destined for U.S. markets is transported via sea lanes, primarily using littoral routes through Central America,” he said. “Working with our partner nations, we intend to disrupt their operations by limiting their ability to use Central America as a transit zone.”
“Illicit trafficking jeopardizes the safety and well being of citizens of every country and has a negative influence on regional and national security,” Fraser added.