Coast Guard offloads 17 tons of cocaine, worth $466 million, seized from international waters

USCG offloads more than 34,000 pounds of cocaine

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (WSVN/CNN) – The U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday offloaded thousands of pounds of cocaine seized in international waters.

"Make no mistake, at any given moment contraband is being transported via maritime routes in the eastern Pacific with an eventual final destination of the United States,” said Cmdr. Michael Sharp with the Coast Guard.

Six Coast Guard cutter crews seized about 35,000 pounds of cocaine – with a wholesale value of $466 million – in 21 separate interdictions off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South America during a span of about three months.

A cutter crew offloaded the cocaine at Port Everglades on Tuesday morning.

The Coast Guard’s work comes with many challenges, including adapting to smugglers constantly coming up with new ways to avoid detection out on the water – like using submerged vessels.

But that’s not all they have to contend with.

"We’re going up against an enemy, these drug organizations, that have guns and they have money and they have means and they shoot back, so there’s risks all around,” said Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command.

The cocaine seizures are part of the broader national strategy to stem the illegal flow of drugs and to protect U.S. borders.

In the last three years, the Coast Guard has removed 1.3 million pounds of cocaine.

Their work never stops. They even kept at it during the partial government shutdown.

“Of course it affected people, it affected families, but we kind of had our head in the game at that point," said Coast Guard member Kelly Crossland.

And that’s what’s necessary to take on what high-ranking officials call a well-funded, constantly evolving adversary.

“This is a mission success,” said Faller, standing before the seized cocaine. “More work needs to be done, and what you see behind us has resulted in saved lives in the United States. It’s resulted in disrupted criminal networks.”

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