Dramatic footage released Thursday by the U.S. Coast Guard shows a crew member bravely leaping from his own vessel on to the top of a semi-submersible vessel as waves crash between the two. A crew member of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro screams “Stop your boat!” in Spanish as the submarine continues to flee, moving further into the darkening Pacific. The crewmember’s fists come pounding down upon the hatch as another follows suit. The hatch opens, a man’s hands already raised in a show of surrender.
Inside the submarine are roughly 17,000 pounds of cocaine tied to at least 55 alleged smugglers, its estimated value $232 million USD.
The operation, which occurred on June 18, is only one of 14 that took place between May and July. According to NBC News’ Doha Madani, “A total of 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana, were seized in that time, for an estimated worth of $569 million, according to a press release Thursday.”
Mike Pence has since congratulated the Coast Guard and participated in a televised offloading of the drugs seized throughout the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean Basin, part of the US’s ongoing fight against drug cartels.
Pence took to Twitter yesterday to confirm the arrest of all 55 connected to the 14 operations.
“The Coast Guard increased US and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin,” reports The Independent, “which are known drug transit zones off the coast of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy.”
According to reports from the Coast Guard, semi-submersible vessels such as the one in the video are quite rare, with cartels having to build them off the grid and each having the capacity to go beneath the water and quickly destroy evidence.
“They blend in,” Lt. Commander Stephen Brickey told CNN. “Most of the vessel is underwater, so it’s hard to pick out. They’re painted blue. They match the water.
Brickey went on to say that it is nearly impossible to catch one without prior intelligence and that pursuing these drug-smuggling boats is like chasing the “white whale.”