The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded a massive haul of seized drugs in San Diego on Thursday, including a total of more than 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana worth a combined estimated $569 million. All of the drugs were seized in international waters during routine operations in the Eastern Pacific. Vice President Mike Pence was on hand to congratulate the Coast Guard for its efforts.
Despite the massive amount of drugs seized, this shipment represents only 14 individual vessel interdictions made off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America by just three Coast Guard cutters between May and July of 2019. These efforts saw cooperation from a number of U.S. agencies, including the departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, but ultimately it’s up to the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct the vehicle interdictions, searches, and seizures.
“Stop your ship!” a member of the coast guard can be heard yelling in the minute-long footage, as his vessel bears down on the semi-submarine.
Midway through the video is when things get particularly dramatic. With the Coast Guard ship practically touching the target, a member of the crew eventually leaps atop the semi-submersible vessel, which is known as a “narco-sub.” As waves crash against him, the coast guardsman pounds on the top of the vessel before an individual, whose face was obscured by the Coast Guard, emerges from the submarine’s hatch.
The events documented in the video occurred on June 18. It was just one of 14 drug raids over the two months by the Coast Guard, as the U.S. ramps up its efforts to stop smugglers traversing from Central and South America. Since May, the Coast Guard says that it has confiscated roughly $569 million worth of cocaine and marijuana. Vice President Mike Pence was at the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado on Thursday as 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana were taken off the island. In addition, 55 accused smugglers were taken into custody.
Cracking down on drugs brought into the United States has been a top priority for the Trump administration, which has advocated hardline immigration and border security policies.
On Thursday, Pence saluted the Coast Guard for seizing $3.6 billion worth of illegal drugs and detaining more than 400 smugglers already this year.
“The courageous service of the [U.S. Coast Guard] is saving lives!” Pence said on Twitter.
He added in a subsequent tweet: “The drugs that are brought across our border bring billions in healthcare expenses, crime & the loss of thousands of Americans lives. The challenges & threats the [U.S. Coast Guard] face underscore why President [Trump] & our administration are determined to SECURE our border!”
Of course, this isn’t the reception most vessels receive while transiting these busy waterways. The Coast Guard, along with other American agencies and their counterparts in allied nations, most often precede these interdictions with extensive reconnaissance coordinated through the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, based in Key West, Florida. In these videos, you can see the Coast Guard conducting surveillance on suspicious vessels that ultimately turned out to be trafficking drugs.
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