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Coast Guard sees huge spike in cocaine seizures off Latin America's Pacific coast

  • Coast Guard members secure cocaine bale from a self-propelled semi-submersible.

    Coast Guard members secure cocaine bale from a self-propelled semi-submersible.

  • In this July 19, 2015 photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team seizes cocaine bales from a self-propelled semi-submersible in international waters off the coast of Central America. The seizure of around 12,000 pounds was one of the largest busts of its kind. (Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

    In this July 19, 2015 photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team seizes cocaine bales from a self-propelled semi-submersible in international waters off the coast of Central America. The seizure of around 12,000 pounds was one of the largest busts of its kind. (Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

The U.S. Coast Guard has seized more cocaine off Latin America's Pacific coast over 10 months than in the past three years combined.

Adm. Paul Zukunft, speaking Monday in San Diego where the drugs were being taken off a Coast Guard vessel, said 119,000 pounds of cocaine were seized over the past 10 months.

Zukunft says his military branch now has a greater presence on the high seas after having to pull back its boats two years ago to meet automatic federal budget reductions.

He says the restoration has resulted in just over $1 billion in illegal drugs being seized.

The Coast Guard is the only U.S. military branch able to make drug arrests hundreds of miles offshore.

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Traffickers increasingly are turning to the seas to get their U.S.-bound loads around tightened security on land.

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