In Miami Beach, Coast Guard unloads 1,250 pounds seized off Costa Rica

 

achardy@MiamiHerald.com

Crew members of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Northland unloaded in Miami Beach Monday 1,250 pounds of cocaine seized late last month on a drug-trafficking boat off the Coast Rican coast in the Pacific Ocean.

Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma, a Miami Coast Guard spokesman, said six suspects were arrested during the May 29 seizure 305 miles southwest of Cocos Island, a Costa Rican national park.

‘This was part of a seizure that happened on May 29 by one of our national security cutters that was alerted by a Customs and Border Protection aircraft,” said Somma as crew members off-loaded the cocaine. “There were six suspected smugglers who were detained. They were sent and detained in Guantanamo Bay and they will be handed over to federal authorities.”

This was the first announcement of a major cocaine seizure by the Coast Guard since a new commander for the agency’s Miami-based Seventh District, Rear Adm. John H. “Jake” Korn, took over June 26 in a ceremony at the Coast Guard Air Station Miami at the Opa-locka executive airport.

“I plan to continue executing [policies] just as we have been,” Korn said. “I reserve the right to make a few tweaks as I go along and learn more, but from what I can see the policies and procedures in place are excellent.”

Korn, in an interview with El Nuevo Herald shortly after he assumed command, vowed to continue the priority policies of the Seventh District: migrant and drug interdiction.

Somma said that during fiscal year 2012, the Coast Guard interdicted about 236,000 pounds of cocaine worth $3.5 billion and 124,000 pounds of marijuana worth $112 million. At the same time, Somma added, the Coast Guard seized 70 suspected drug-smuggling vessels during the same time period.

Generally, Coast Guard drug seizures occur in the Caribbean or the Atlantic Ocean as part of the multinational anti-narcotics effort codenamed Operation Martillo, Spanish for Hammer.

But Somma said the cocaine offloaded in Miami Beach on Monday was seized in the Pacific.

“What’s interesting here is that this was technically by a 11th District Coast Guard asset, the national security cutter Bertholf, and an aircraft and small boats,” said Somma. “It was then transferred to a Coast Guard cutter to be brought to Miami.”

Somma said he did not know whether the cutter transporting the cocaine to Miami Beach transited the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Marilyn Fajardo, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said the Bertholf received a report from CBP about a go-fast boat and launched an interception crew. The seized cocaine is worth about $19 million.

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