Coast Guard seizes $3M in drugs from smugglers

MIAMI (WCIV) -- Coast Guard crewmembers seized on Friday nearly 3,500 pounds of marijuana from drug runners during a patrol in the Caribbean Sea.

The drugs, taken during Operation Martillo, were valued at $3 million. Coast Guard officials said the suspected drug smugglers jettisoned another 89 bales of marijuana into the water after the crew of the HNLMS Friesland gave pursuit.

According to the Coast Guard, the drugs were later transferred to the Cutter Gallatin crew, who then passed it on toe Drug Enforcement Agency members.

"This seizure isanother excellent example of how the U.S. Coast Guard partners with ourEuropean allies to combat illicit trafficking in the Caribbean Sea in order tokeep drugs from reaching American and European soil," said Capt. BrendanMcPherson,{}Seventh Coast Guard District chief of enforcement.

Officials said Operation Martillo is aninternational operation focused on sharing information and bringing togetherair, land, and maritime assets from the U.S. Department of Defense, theDepartment of Homeland Security, and Western Hemisphere and European partner agencies to combat drug trafficking.

"SinceOperation Martillo began in January 2012, we have collectively seized more than$5 billion of cocaine and $32 million marijuana. Our success in keeping thesedrugs off our streets also limits the negative effects they have on regionalstability in the Central American isthmus. I commend the crew of the HNLMSFriesland for their contributions to this important operation," McPherson said.

The Coast Guard CutterGallatin is a 378-foot high-endurance cutter based out of Charleston.

High{}endurancecutters like the Gallatin{}are built for long-term offshore patrols, Coast Guard officials said. The Gallatin and similar ships offer enhanced communications and helicopter andpursuit boat operations.