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Operation Martillo Still Hammering Away at Illicit Trafficking

March 30, 2016

Operation Martillo, led by Joint Interagency Task Force South in support of U.S. Southern Command, is entering its fifth year of coordinating partner nation efforts to stop illicit trafficking routes in the coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.

Since its launch on Jan. 15, 2012, Martillo — Spanish for “hammer” — has supported the seizure of 693 metric tons of cocaine and $25 million in bulk cash, detained 1,863 suspects and 581 vessels and aircraft.

“The successful whole-of-region approach to halt the flow of cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the region promotes stability, security and well-being of citizens of every country,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Christopher J. Tomney, the director of JIATF South. “Western Hemisphere and European partner nation efforts aim to shift maritime illicit trafficking away from the Central American littorals while also maximizing interdiction efforts in a resource-constrained environment.”

Persistent Presence

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In support of the operation, U.S., partner nation and allied forces’ ships and aircraft provide persistent presence in select maritime zones.

“While the operation has led to an increase in seizures and disruptions, the most positive outcome from the very beginning has been the increase in participation of partner nation forces in the overall goal of countering transnational organized crime,” Tomney said.

JIATF South’s partnerships, along with Southcom’s focus on building partner capacity in the Northern Tier, has led Operation Martillo to increase the task force’s unity of effort, information sharing and interoperability among partner nations.

“Since the inauguration of Martillo, the task force has increased its awareness of illicit trafficking patterns, partner nations have supported 50 percent of all interdictions and disruptions operations and tactical communications have improved, to include coordination and interaction efforts,” Tomney said.

“This is a partnership effort, and we can’t do it alone,” he added. “The contributions of our partner nations and allies are critical to our mutual goal of countering illicit trafficking.”

(From a Joint Interagency Task Force South news release.)