MIAMI BEACH Fla. (Reuters) - Nearly three tons of cocaine packed in bricks marked with smiley faces and black Lamborghini sports cars was offloaded by the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami Beach, Florida on Thursday after being seized in Caribbean waters near Panama last month.
The cocaine, worth an estimated $93 million, was confiscated as part of the U.S. government’s Operation Martillo, (Spanish for “hammer”), to halt the increased flow of drugs through the Caribbean.
The cocaine will be destroyed after being analyzed in the hopes of determining its country of origin, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said.
In recent years, Mexican, Colombian and Central American cartels have turned to using speedboats in the Caribbean for illicit shipments into the United States.
The Coast Guard has seized approximately 30 tons of cocaine in the Caribbean since October 2013, spokesman Ryan Doss said.
Roughly 14 percent of U.S.-bound cocaine shipments, about 42 tons, was trafficked through the Caribbean during the first six months of 2013, double the share shipped through the region in the first half of 2012, according to the DEA.
On Aug. 23, two Coast Guard boats stopped a speedboat north of the Gulf of Uraba near northwestern Colombia after a helicopter spotted its crewmembers throwing packages overboard.
Thirty-two bales of cocaine were recovered, the Coast Guard said.
Five days later, the Coast Guard boarded a Panamanian-flagged vessel off that country’s coast and recovered roughly 3,300 pounds (1,497 kg) of cocaine.
Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Grant McCool