A U.S. Coast Guard cutter recently returned to port in Oregon with a massive haul of cocaine seized from cartels and transnational crime groups in the Eastern Pacific.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast was conducting a 50-day counterdrug patrol in the Pacific waters off the coasts of Mexico and Central America, returning to Astoria Dec. 24 with roughly 12,000 pounds of cocaine.
Officials said the seizure carries a street value of more than $180 million wholesale, according to KCPQ.
The Steadfast interdicted five separate boats used for drug running, including one custom built vessel designed specifically to avoid detection.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work and dedication of my crew, and the men and women of the interagency aircrews and support networks ashore,” said Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, commander of the Steadfast, according to Q13 Fox. “Their teamwork was vital to successfully combating transnational organized crime in drug trafficking zones over the past several months.
“Knowing we stopped tons of drugs from reaching America’s shores and the streets of our allied nations in Central and South America made this deployment over the holidays even more rewarding,” Balmaceda added.
The crew also operated a search and rescue operation during the same patrol after a crew of fishermen became stranded roughly 300 miles from shore.
According to KCPQ, the men claimed to have been stranded at sea for 15 days before the Steadfast rescued them.
“During this deployment, Steadfast and her crew sailed over 11,000 miles, and their success ensured the maritime safety and security in the Eastern Pacific Region,” he said.
The U.S. Coast Guard previously seized nearly 16 tons of cocaine during a series of drug busts in the Pacific Ocean, targeting smuggling routes over a 26-day period in March.
Authorities estimate the total cocaine seizure to be worth $420 million.
The Coast Guard interdicted 17 drug smuggling vessels traveling in the Eastern Pacific along the coasts of Central and South America during the 26-day mission with the assistance of Canadian authorities.
Cocaine use appears to be rising in the U.S., as are fatalities, due to the increasing prevalence of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl in cocaine supplies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that cocaine overdose deaths increased from roughly 4,000 in 2009 to more than 6,700 in 2015.
Officials predict that cocaine overdose deaths are about to explode in 2017 to nearly 11,000.
Nationally, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016.
A version of this article appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.
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