MIAMI – The United States is joining with European and Western Hemisphere partners in a multinational effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.
Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command, today announced its participation in Operation Martillo. Martillo is the Spanish word for “hammer.”
The U.S. contribution to the multinational detection, monitoring and interdiction operation includes Navy and Coast Guard vessels and aircraft from federal law enforcement agencies, working with military and law enforcement units from various nations to deny transnational criminal organizations the ability to move narcotics, precursor chemicals for explosives, bulk cash and weapons along Central American shipping routes.
Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, Southcom commander, highlighted the extent of illicit trafficking in the region and its harmful impact on people’s lives within the widely used transit zone.
"More than 80 percent of the cocaine destined for U.S. markets is transported via sea lanes, primarily using littoral routes through Central America," he said. "Working with our partner nations, we intend to disrupt their operations by limiting their ability to use Central America as a transit zone.
"Illicit trafficking jeopardizes the safety and well-being of citizens of every country and has a negative influence on regional and national security," Fraser added.
Operation Martillo is a critical component of the U.S. government's coordinated interagency regional security strategy in support of the White House strategy to combat transnational organized crime and the U.S. Central America regional security initiative.
In 2011, international and cooperative interagency efforts coordinated through Joint Interagency Task Force South resulted in the disruption of 119 metric tons of cocaine, with a wholesale value of $2.35 billion, before it could reach destinations in the United States. The task force's efforts also enabled the interdiction of $21 million in bulk cash destined for traffickers in Central and South America and $16 million worth of black market goods.