SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The Dutch Navy and a squad of U.S. Coast Guard raiders seized 4.6 tons (4,200 kilograms) of cocaine from a Panamanian-flagged freighter that had set sail from Venezuela, Dutch and U.S. officials said Friday.
The Dutch Navy said it is the largest haul of cocaine it has ever intercepted.
“This seizure underlines the excellent cooperation between all our partners in the region and once again confirms the importance of our presence in the Caribbean,” said Rear Adm. Peter Lenselink, the commander of Netherlands Forces in the Caribbean.
The Dutch Navy said its regional headquarters in Curacao received information last week that a Panamanian freighter might be smuggling drugs from Venezuela to Europe. A Dutch coast guard vessel, with about a half-dozen members of a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment aboard, was dispatched to intercept the freighter.
At dawn on Sunday, the Dutch frigate and its helicopter approached the freighter at high speed in the Caribbean south of Puerto Rico on Sunday, the Dutch Navy said.
A U.S. Coast Guard team boarded and began searching. Thirty-six hours later, it discovered a suspicious hatch inside the engine room, with bales of cocaine secreted in several compartments.
U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachments have been embedding with forces of allied countries to seize drug shipments through the Caribbean, a major trafficking corridor, said Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Miami.
She said the Americans were still aboard the Dutch ship, along with the detained freighter crew and the seized cocaine.
This is significant for several reasons:
1. It confirms that Venezuela is now the #1 port of departure for drug traffic in the Caribbean.
2. It shows that the US Coast Guard and law enforcement are working closely together with foreign countries. Two years ago I started posting about how international law enforcement were working together stopping drug shipments from Venezuela. Earlier in 2006 France had stopped an 18 ton shipment, and Mexico had stopped a 5 1/2 ton shipment, also originating from Venezuela.
Strategically, the Caribbean is extremely important for the drug trade.
Oldie but goodie post: Caribbean oil, Caribbean drugs, and major players