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Operation Martillo

​Operation Martillo (Hammer) is a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.  U.S. military participation is led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command. 

Recent Photos

Crew members from the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team offloads approximately 5,100 pounds of suspected cocaine from The Royal Canadian Navy HMCS Edmonton at Naval Base San Diego Dec. 7th, 2018. The contraband was seized by Coast Guard and Canadian Navy crews working together during counterdrug operations in the Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released)
Crew members from the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team offloads approximately 5,100 pounds of suspected cocaine from The Royal Canadian Navy HMCS Edmonton at Naval Base San Diego Dec. 7th, 2018. The contraband was seized by Coast Guard and Canadian Navy crews working together during counterdrug operations in the Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released)
Pictured is the Coast Guard Cutter James (WMSL-754) crew, Claire M. Grady, acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, commander of Coast Guard 7th District with 18.5 tons of interdicted cocaine on deck Nov. 15, 2018 in Port Everglades, Florida. The crew of the cutter James offloaded approximately 18.5 tons of cocaine in Port Everglades worth more than an estimated $495 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Active, a 210-foot medium endurance Reliance-class cutter homeported in Port Angeles, Washington, interdicts more than 1 ton of cocaine from four suspected drug smugglers during a counter-narcotics patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Friday, May 18, 2018. Cutters like Active routinely conduct operations from South America to the Bering Sea to perform defense operations, alien migrant interdiction, domestic fisheries protection, search and rescue, counter-narcotics and other Coast Guard missions at great distances from shore keeping threats far from the U.S. mainland. (U.S. Coast Guard Photos by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC-908) offloaded approximately 6 tons of cocaine seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean were offloaded Monday, Sept. 17, 2018 in Port Everglades. The drugs, worth more than an estimated $170-million, represent drugs seized from six suspected smuggling vessels interdicted by crews from Tahoma and two other Coast Guard cutters between late July and August. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Brent Sargent
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma (WMEC-908) offloaded approximately 6 tons of cocaine seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean were offloaded Monday, Sept. 17, 2018 in Port Everglades. The drugs, worth more than an estimated $170-million, represent drugs seized from six suspected smuggling vessels interdicted by crews from Tahoma and two other Coast Guard cutters between late July and August. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally
A U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry takes off in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South at Naval Air Station Key West Boca Chica Field, Fla., July 14, 2018. The air component aircraft find and track sea targets potentially involved in illicit trafficking or threat networks until the U.S. Coast Guard and law enforcement can interdict. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
A Coast Guard Cutter Alert boarding team prepares to remove contraband from a suspected low-profile go-fast vessel in international waters off the coast of Central America during the cutter’s counterdrug patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, July 1, 2018. The boarding resulted in the seizure of 2,263 pounds of suspected cocaine and the apprehension of three suspected smugglers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast load a pallet of seized cocaine during an offload at Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, San Diego, July 16, 2018. The wholesale value of the seized cocaine is estimated at more than $260 million. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released)
A U.S. Coast Guardsman aboard an interceptor boat launched from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast pursues a suspected smuggling vessel as the suspected smugglers throw bales overboard during a high-speed chase in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean July 11, 2018. The suspected smugglers were able to evade capture but the interdiction resulted in the seizure of more than 5,000 kilograms of cocaine. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast prepare a pallet of seized cocaine to be offloaded at Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, San Diego, July 16, 2018. Approximately 7,800 kilograms of cocaine seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean by the crews of the cutters Steadfast and Alert were offloaded. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released)
Crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast send off a pallet of seized cocaine during an offload at Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, San Diego, July 16, 2018. The drugs were interdicted from four suspected smuggling vessels from late June to mid-July. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon/released).
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter James takes a moment for a group photo before offloading in Port Everglades Thursday, May 10, 2018 approximately 6 tons of cocaine worth an estimated $180 million. The cutter James was involved in six interdictions along with other Coast Guard cutters resulting in the 6 tons of cocaine interdicted at sea in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally
PACIFIC OCEAN (April 7, 2018) A suspected smuggler who jumped from his burning vessel, in background, is pulled aboard an interceptor boat from the Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship USS Zephyr (PC 8) by members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy in international waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean on April 7, 2018. The suspected smuggling vessel went ablaze as Coast Guard and Navy personnel approached to intercept it. All four suspected smugglers who abandoned the burning boat were rescued, the fire was extinguished and approximately 1,080 pounds of cocaine was removed from the hull before it was sunk as a hazard to navigation. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Released)
PACIFIC OCEAN (April 7, 2018) A suspected smuggling vessel is ablaze as U.S. Coast Guard and Navy crews approach to intercept it in international waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean, April 7, 2018. Four suspected smugglers who jumped from the vessel after it caught fire were rescued, the fire was extinguished and approximately 1,080 pounds of cocaine was removed from the hull before it was sunk as a hazard to navigation. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo/Released)

Overview of U.S. military support to Operation Martillo

The U.S. contribution to the multinational detection, monitoring and interdiction operation includes U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, aircraft from U.S. federal law enforcement agencies, and military and law enforcement units from various nations working together to deny transnational criminal organizations the ability to exploit these transshipment routes for the movement of narcotics, precursor chemicals, bulk cash, and weapons along Central American shipping routes. 

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.  Fourteen countries are participating: Belize, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States.  Chile has also contributed to the operation.

By the Numbers

Since its launch Jan. 15, 2012, Martillo has supported the seizure of 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in bulk cash, 581 vessels and aircraft detained and the arrest of 1,863 detainees.

More information

White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime of July 2011

The White House Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime of July 2011 is organized around a single, unifying principle: to build, balance, and integrate the tools of American power to combat TOC and related threats to our national security – and to urge our partners to do the same.  Learn more about CTOC Strategy

U.S. Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI)

The desired objective of CARSI is to produce a safer and more secure region where criminal organizations no longer wield the power to destabilize governments or threaten national and regional security and public safety, as well as to prevent the entry and spread of illicit drugs, violence, and transnational threats to countries throughout the region and to the United States.  Learn more about CARSI

Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South)

The Key West, Fla.-based JIATF South is the National Task Force that serves as the catalyst for integrated and synchronized interagency counter-illicit trafficking operations, and is responsible for the detection and monitoring of suspect air and maritime drug activity in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific. JIATF South also collects, processes, and disseminates counter drug information for interagency and partner nation operations.  Learn more about Joint Interagency Task Force South

Department of Defense role

While the Department of Defense is not the lead agency responsible for countering threat networks, its unique capabilities can be leveraged to support other U.S. government and partner nation efforts. SOUTHCOM is aligned with and supports lead agencies, such as the Departments of Justice and State, as well as partner nations in the threat network fight.  Learn more about DoD/SOUTHCOM efforts.

Department of Defense interdiction role explained

The DoD is the lead federal agency in efforts to detect and monitor aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs towards the United States.  Based on information gathered by JIATF South-coordinated operations, U.S. law enforcement agencies and partner nations take the lead in interdicting drug runners.  U.S. military interdiction involvement, if any, is in support of those law enforcement agencies. 

Typically, U.S. military personnel are involved in supporting an interdiction during maritime operations in international waters, where U.S. Navy ships and helicopters patrol and intercept suspected traffickers.  The actual interdictions – boarding, search, seizures and arrests – are led and conducted by embarked U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments or partner nation drug law enforcement agencies. 

SOUTHCOM LINES OF EFFORT

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