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U.S. Seizes $1 Billion in Cocaine, Pot Off South American Coast

A Coast Guard vessel offloaded more than 30 metric tons of cocaine and marijuana worth over $1 billion that was seized at sea during a months-long deployment off the coast of South America, reports the Associated Press. The haul of illegal narcotics brought home by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter James to a port in Fort Lauderdale, Fl., was one of the biggest in recent memory, partly due to a increasingly sophisticated U.S. arsenal that includes powerful drones and infrared cameras that can detect heat from small cocaine-laden vessels. It highlights a surge in narcotics from Colombia, the world’s top producer of cocaine.

The Biden administration’s top anti-narcotics officials traveled to South Florida to welcome back the vessel’s crew and tout the Coast Guard’s role interdicting drugs. “We are hitting the drug traffickers where it hits them most: their pocketbooks,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. Gupta said the Biden administration is seeking to increase the U.S. government’s budget to build up the addiction treatment infrastructure and reduce the supply of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and other drugs. The record busts of late by the Coast Guard, federal law enforcement and partner nations underscore how little the flow of cocaine coming from Latin America has eased since President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs a half-century ago. Coca cultivation in Colombia in 2020 soared to 945 square miles, enough to produce 1,010 metric tons of cocaine. As recently as 2014, potential production was less than half that amount.


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