This post originally appeared on VICE Canada.
The coke-smuggling cartels using the Caribbean and eastern Pacific Ocean as home base for their illicit operations just gained a new enemy on the high seas: Canadian soldiers.
Yesterday the Canadian Armed Forces just recommenced Operation CARIBBE—its official mission against transnational criminal syndicates using the seas of the Americas as trafficking lanes for cocaine and other narcotics.
The deployment of Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Winnipeg—a Royal Canadian Navy Vessel—to the eastern Pacific marks the start of Canada's 2015 contribution to a wider operation involving American and foreign militaries cracking down on narco-traffickers in the region.
While the Winnipeg, seven other maritime vessels, and one Iroquois-class destroyer equipped with Sea King helicopters scour Pacific and Caribbean waters, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is supplying CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft from its long range squadrons for the mission.
In 2014, this same maritime operation netted CAF soldiers over "four metric tons of cocaine and more than 500 kilograms of marijuana"—some of those contents coming from an historic bust of Colombian narco-traffickers destined for foreign shores. That seized blow cache, stowed away on Colombian speedboats ferrying it across the Caribbean, had an estimated worth of $24.5 million.
Operation CARIBBE, done in conjunction with several continental and European allies, is a nine-year-old mission that began in November 2006. Aimed at disrupting the lucrative illicit drug chains mostly supplying European and North American cocaine markets, the multinational effort dovetails into Operation MARTILLO—an American-led international mission fighting the infamous war on drugs.
DND's official Operation CARIBBE website celebrates the past results of the mission with statistical breakdowns of coke seizures.
For example, Canadian soldiers helped capture 5,000 kilos of cocaine in 2013, "36 bales of cocaine weighing 1,086 kilograms, with an estimated wholesale value of more than $29 million USD" and 144 bales worth $116 million—all in 2012—while in 2011 they helped seize 201 metric tons of cocaine worth an estimated $4 billion (according to "street prices in Miami").
"Canada has been a resolute partner alongside our allies in addressing security challenges in the Central American region," said Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson in a statement. "For nearly a decade, we have remained committed to working with partner nations through Operation CARIBBE, preserving the safety and security of Canadians, and suppressing trafficking in international waters."
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