More than 125 seized bales of cocaine — with a street value of roughly $350 million — were unloaded Tuesday by U.S. Coast Guard officials in Florida.
The 80-pound bricks were seized in two separate incidents in southwestern Caribbean waters and were handed over to federal agents on Tuesday to be destroyed. The busts were part of Operation Martillo, an international effort to keep drugs from reaching American soil and abroad, the Miami Herald reports.
“We can safely assume that these drugs probably would have ended up here,” U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Junior Grade Meaghan Gies told the newspaper.
The drugs are worth about $110 million wholesale since street value is typically three times that figure. As she awaited the arrival of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare early Tuesday, Gies said the combined seizure was “probably the biggest offload” in about a year.
Operation Martillion, which means hammer in Spanish, was launched in 2012 among countries such as the United States, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica to stop drug shipments prior to reaching inland. The countries have bilateral agreements that allow them to board ships in order to stop smuggling operations, the newspaper reports.
“This seizure is just another successful example of our cooperation with our partners to maintain a forward presence in the Caribbean Sea,” Marilyn Fajardo, deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard, told the Miami Herald. “This is one of our core missions.”
Roughly 80 percent of cocaine smuggled into the United States comes in through water, Gies said.
“The idea is to stop it before it is broken up into smaller parts and distributed,” she said.
The first bust took place on March 15, roughly 100 miles south of Jamaica. Four days later, the Legare intercepted a go-fast boat in the waters between Colombia and Honduras.