Coast Guard Seizes $19 Million Of Cocaine In St. Petersburg, FL.
On October 27th of this year, the United States Coast Guard vessel Sitkniak seized an estimated $19 million dollars of cocaine headed for US shores. As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, the crew of the US vessel observed a suspicious-looking 26-foot vessel in the Caribbean carrying strange packages onboard. A boarding crew was dispatched, wherein the US Coast Guard crew seized 20 packages of what was later tested positive as cocaine. The two suspected smugglers were turned over to Federal authorities in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The action was carried out through a larger operation referred to as Operation Martillo, which carries out actions to seize weapons, drugs and hard cash out of Central America and the Caribbean. It is an international operation which carries its emphasis on sharing information and bringing together the U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security and certain agencies from other countries.
What Is Cocaine?
Since the late 1800s, cocaine has been a serious ongoing issue as an addictive substance within the United States. Its first usage was noted in 1898 when it was put in bottle sodas and other beverages. It is derived from the coca plant, commonly found in Central America, which is oldest and most potent toxins found in the natural world.
As explained by Drugfreeworld.com, the coca plant was originally used by native Peruvians during rituals as a stimulant, but was later forced upon them by conquering Spaniards who used the Peruvians for manual labor. It later spread to Europe where it was refined into cocaine in Germany around 1860 and used widely for pharmaceutical purposes about 20 years later. Sigmund Freud was the first notable user of cocaine who prescribed it to his patients in order to cure depression and sexual impotence.
The drug got a larger boost in usage when it was included in the ingredients of the popular brand of soda, Coca-Cola, in 1886. From there it found its way into certain “magical” elixirs and drinks, the usage of actually being promoted by Hollywood, reaching and influencing millions of people. Eventually, by the early 1900s, the fallout from using cocaine was mounting. In 1912, there were 5000 reported deaths from overdosing on cocaine, and by 1922, the United States Government banned the substance altogether.
In the 1970s, cocaine experienced a re-emergence as a “fashionable” drug in the worlds of business and entertainment. It provided a quick and easy means to live life “in the fast lane.” The amount of students at American universities who were using cocaine recreationally was reported to have increased ten-fold between 1970 and 1980.
By the 1990s, Columbian drug cartels had set up elaborate networks to get their cocaine into the United States. It was estimated that they had been moving around 500-800 tons of cocaine into the country each year. The larger groups were also were importing to Asia and Europe. Those larger groups were eventually dismantled by law enforcement agencies. Smaller groups eventually filled the void, and it is estimated that today, roughly 300 or so groups exist in the world providing cocaine to the United States.
According to JustF.org, (“Just the Facts: A Cvilian’s Guide to Defense and Security Assistance to Latin American and the Caribbean”) Operation Martillo, martillo being Spanish for “hammer”, was started in January 2012. It is a joint operation between the United States and various European and Latin American agencies, totaling about 14, to combat aerial and maritime drug trafficking on Central American waters. It is led by a United States interagency task force comprised of elements from the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Treasury Department, Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as assistance from the US Customs and Border Protection.
Since its inception, Operation Martillo has changed the routes of drug traffickers from the Western Caribbean over to the Eastern side, causing a drastic change to their tactics and strategies of getting drugs into the United States.
Cocaine Trafficking To The United States
Drug trafficking has increased exponentially over the past several decades within the United States. According to PolicyAlmanac.org, drug trafficking in the United States is the most profitable in the world. As a result, it attracts with worst kinds of people to carry out these illegal activities.
Cocaine trafficking is primarily carried out by Colombian and Mexican drug cartels. Their products are usually carried over the US-Mexican border by any means possible. However, this does not exclude shipments by air and boat as well, which come in through the Caribbean.
This recent catch by the US Coast Guard represents a great success in the war on cocaine trafficking.