US agents seize cocaine, arrest 5 Hondurans on boat intercepted in Caribbean

Monday, June 7, 2010

US agents seize cocaine cache on fishing boat

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — U.S. authorities have seized 3,269 pounds (1,483 kilograms) of cocaine from a rusty Panama-flagged fishing boat and arrested five Honduran crew members, officials announced Monday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said a Coast Guard unit seized the fishing boat, the “Two Brothers,” some 34 miles (55 kilometers) northwest of the capital of the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. They towed the boat to Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan.

In the U.S. territory, agents wearing DEA jackets unloaded 66 bales of cocaine from the 87-foot (26-meter) fishing boat and guarded it on the pier. Authorities said the cocaine has an estimated value of $46 million.

The drugs were concealed inside a ballast water tank, Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said.

The five crew members will face a raft of drug smuggling charges. The suspects were delivered to Puerto Rico by agents from the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force, which investigates the trafficking of South American drugs.

While most of the drugs reaching the United States cross the southwest border with Mexico, an estimated 30 percent come through the Caribbean. The drugs are often spirited ashore along Puerto Rico’s 300-mile (480-kilometer) coastline in boats from neighboring islands.

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