By Larry Shaughnessy
The hammer of the U.S. Navy came down on a group of drug smugglers off the coast of Panama when sailors teamed up with other U.S. law enforcement agencies to seize nearly 5,000 pounds of cocaine, worth about $360 million.
Last Friday’s seizure was part of Operation Martillo,which is Spanish for hammer.
According to a U.S. Southern Command news release, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection plane spotted two “fast boats” off the coast of Panama filled with bales assumed to be drugs. The plane radioed the USS Elrod, a Navy frigate on station nearby. The Elrod sent a Sea Hawk helicopter to chase the boats.
With the helicopter, a U.S. navy frigate and Panamanian authorities on their tails, the people in the boats threw the drugs overboard and made a run for it.
The Elrod arrived in the area where the drugs were ditched and launched some small boats to recover the drugs.
All told, they found 89 bales filled with cocaine, but the boats that were carrying them and the people on board escaped.
The drugs will now be turned over to the U.S. Department of Justice.