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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

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)
Coast Guard Cutter Forward (WMEC-911) crewmembers load bales of interdicted cocaine onto a crane to be offloaded at Port Everglades, Florida, Feb. 5, 2019. The Forward crew offloaded approximately 34,780 pounds of cocaine at Port Everglades worth an estimated $466 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
The Coast Guard Cutter Forward (WMEC-911) crew stand amongst 34,780 pounds of interdicted cocaine aboard at Port Everglades, Florida, Feb. 5, 2019. The Forward crew offloaded approximately 34,780 pounds of cocaine at Port Everglades worth an estimated $466 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.
The commander of U.S. Southern Command, Navy Adm. Craig Faller, discusses importance of dismantling criminal organizations that seek to profit form narcotics smuggling during a press conference for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forward offload of more than 34,000 pounds of seized cocaine. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)
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)

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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