“Cocaine is a hell of a drug,” Rick James once said.
But earlier this month, the U.S. Navy put a crimp in the supply line when it interdicted roughly 6,200 pounds of booger sugar with an estimated wholesale value of $106 million, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command announced in a release.
The littoral combat ship Gabrielle Giffords was underway with a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment embarked onboard when they intercepted a “low-profile vessel” in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
“Small boats were deployed to achieve positive control and begin boarding of the LPV,” the release states, and helos from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 were deployed to provide overwatch.
A search of the LPV uncovered the drugs in 134 bales, and three suspected drug traffickers were also detained.
The move, amid pressure from lawmakers and the military command covering the Southern Hemisphere, signals a new intensity in combating the importing of illegal drugs amid a tidal wave of opioid deaths in the U.S.
“Interdiction evolutions, no matter how often you conduct them, are different every time,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Daniel Pike, of the Gabrielle Giffords. “Our team is dedicated to exemplifying the qualities of safe, professional mariners during these operations from start to finish.”
Giffords is deployed to support a mission to counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific.
The Navy has been sending ships down to the waters of U.S. Southern Command in recent years to help with drug interdiction efforts.
Before the plans to send Navy ships there for interdiction missions took shape in 2018, then-SOUTHCOM head Adm. Kurt Tidd told lawmakers that his command was only resourced to interdict roughly a quarter of known narcotics shipments to the United States.