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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

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy's (DDG 112) interceptor team provides security from the ship's rigid-hull inflatable boat after a low profile vessel was sighted by an MH-60R Sea Hawk, assigned to the "Easyriders" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37. The Michael Murphy crew kept the suspicious vessel in sight until the suspected smugglers and the vessel were turned over to the crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midgett (WMSL 757) who conducted a law enforcement boarding. Michael Murphy is conducting routine operations in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Command Master Chief Jose Ramiro)
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) crew members aboard the cutter’s 35-foot Long Range Interceptor small boat supervising the intentional sinking of suspected drug-smuggling boats May 17, 2019, following the seizure of cocaine from the boats during an at-sea interdiction while Munro’s crew patrolled international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Due to the distance from land, inadequate tow points and flooding in the engine rooms of the boats, the boats were sunk as a hazard to navigation. U.S. Coast Guard photo
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) crew members inspect a self-propelled semi-submersible June 19, 2019, in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Coast Guard crews seized more than 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana, worth a combined estimated $569 million, through 14 separate suspected drug smuggling interdictions and disruptions off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America by three Coast Guard cutters between May and July 2019. U.S. Coast Guard photo
Vice President Mike Pence stands alongside U.S. Coast Guard Capt. James C. Estramonte, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755), and Munro crewmembers while aboard the cutter in San Diego July 11, 2019, during Munro’s bulk offload of more than 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana, worth a combined estimated $569 million. The drugs offloaded represent 14 separate suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions and disruptions in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America by three Coast Guard cutters between May and July 2019. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to reporters from aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) while aboard the cutter in San Diego July 11, 2019, during Munro’s bulk offload of more than 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana, worth a combined estimated $569 million. The drugs offloaded represent 14 separate suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions and disruptions in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America by three Coast Guard cutters between May and July 2019. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi
A Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WMSL-753) crewmember prepares a palette of interdicted cocaine to be offloaded at Port Everglades, Florida, June 6, 2019. The drugs were interdicted in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America and include contraband seized and recovered in over a dozen interdictions of suspected drug smuggling vessels by U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy ships. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, Rear Adm. Peter Brown and The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WMSL-753) crew stand on the flight deck amongst 26,000 pounds of interdicted cocaine and 1,500 pounds of interdicted marijuana at Port Everglades, Florida, June 6, 2019. The drugs were interdicted in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America and include contraband seized and recovered in over a dozen interdictions of suspected drug smuggling vessels by U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy ships. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
Admiral Charles Ray speaks during a press briefing on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Bear (WMEC-901) before a drug offload April 18, 2019 at Port Everglades, Florida. The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent five separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
Coast Guard Cutter Bear (WMEC-901) crewmembers stand among interdicted drugs on the flight deck of the cutter April 18, 2019 at Port Everglades, Florida. The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent five separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
Coast Guard Cutter Bear (WMEC-901) crewmembers stage interdicted drugs on the flight deck of the cutter April 18, 2019 at Port Everglades, Florida. The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent five separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
Petty Officer 1st Class Gregory Helmers, a boatswain's mate aboard Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, offloads contraband from the cutter at Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal in San Diego April 5, 2019. More than 7.1 tons of cocaine were seized during six separate interdictions off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America by the Coast Guard cutters Active (WMEC-618), Steadfast (WMEC-623) and Waesche (WMSL-751). (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Guzman/released)
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche poses with pallets holding more than 7.1 tons of contraband Friday at Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal in San Diego April 5, 2019. The drugs were seized during six separate interdictions off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America by the Coast Guard cutters Active (WMEC-618), Steadfast (WMEC-623) and Waesche (WMSL-751). (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Guzman/released)
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mason R. Cram wraps a palette of cocaine in preparation for a drug offload Mar. 22, 2019 at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa offloaded approximately 27,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $360 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
Pictured is the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) crew standing among approximately 27,000 pounds of seized cocaine Mar. 22, 2019 at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa offloaded approximately 27,000 pounds of cocaine worth an estimated $360 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
A boat from the RFA Mounts Bay seized 100kg of cocaine in the Caribbean as drug-runners dumped their illegal cargo and fled from authorities. (Royal Navy photo)

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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