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U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian Navy seize 26 tons of cocaine in eastern Pacific

December 18, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian Navy seize 26 tons of cocaine in eastern Pacific

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Over 26 tons of cocaine, worth approximately $715 million, was taken ashore in South Florida on Thursday after multiple seizures by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Navy in the eastern Pacific.

At a press conference on Thursday, U.S. Coast Guard members said that the drugs brought to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale stemmed from 27 separate vessel interceptions and five-bale recovery operations off of South and Central America within the past three months.

Pallets holding the drugs, many wrapped in brightly colored plastic, and some with labels including “white sugar” or “pork,” spanned the entire flight deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton, NBC Miami reported.

Vice Admiral Karl Schultz, the Coast Guard commander in the Atlantic, stated that the seizures were part of an effort to target boats transporting cocaine by sea from Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia before the drugs reach land and are broken up into much smaller amounts for smuggling into the United States and Canada.

Schulz also noted that cocaine seizures at sea result in three times more drugs caught than all U.S. land-based efforts together.

“When we interdict drugs at sea, they are large quantities,” he added. “That’s the impact of doing this at sea.”

Officials revealed that about 100 suspected traffickers were apprehended in the many interdictions. Some are being prosecuted in South Florida, which is one reason the Hamilton brought the drugs to Port Everglades.

Commodore Craig Baines, the commander of the Royal Canadian Naval Atlantic Fleet, added that two British Columbia-based vessels were responsible for seizing over 3,000 pounds of the cocaine offloaded.

“It is a tangible example of our collective efforts to keep narcotics off our streets while at the same time promoting regional security,” Baines stated.

In the fiscal year that concluded on September 30th, Schultz said that similar busts at sea resulted in the seizure of over 221 tons of cocaine and numerous arrests. The drugs brought ashore on Thursday represents 75% of the drugs seized so far this fiscal year, he continued.

Hamilton Captain, Scott Clendenin, said that the smugglers frequently change methods, such as using submarine-like vessels that work just beneath the waves. He said the Hamilton has the most advanced surveillance and tracking equipment available, giving the Coast Guard a better opportunity to catch the criminals, even at night.

“It’s a very difficult operating environment. They have an advantage, but we are taking over that advantage,” said Clendenin.

The seized drugs are usually kept in a protected location as evidence for criminal prosecutions and are eventually burned by the DEA, according to officials.

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