The maritime operation will begin on Sunday and other allied countries, such as Colombia, will participate.
The governments of the United States and Mexico have differences in migration and trade, but both nations will join forces in the high seas as never before in a fight against drug trafficking.
The United States, Mexico and Colombia will go after drug traffickers on the South American coasts of the Pacific in an operation that is scheduled to begin on Sunday and would last for the near future, Coast Guard officials told The Associated Press.
Adm. Of the Coast Guard, Paul F. Zukunft, hinted at the idea during a recent press conference in San Diego, saying that the United States “can not do it alone.”
“It is not a secret that we are besieged by the flow of drugs from Latin America,” he said.
Forces from Mexico and the United States have worked together at sea on a routine basis, but the most recent effort “represents an important step in the sharing of information, collaboration and cooperation between the United States, Mexico and other allied countries,” he said. Coast Guard.
Americans and Mexicans will exchange intelligence more freely than on previous occasions, which could mean sharing information about the routes most used by drug traffickers or the specific paths preferred by particular organizations, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Alana Miller.
They will also approach ships from other countries to observe operations and gain knowledge, Miller said. In 2015, three members of the Mexican Navy boarded a Coast Guard boat during a stopover in Huatulco, Mexico, but this operation commands more frequent exchanges, and boarding will take place at sea.
The operation will last “the foreseeable future, as long as it works for all parties,” Miller said.
Over the years, traffickers have more frequently turned to the sea to move their illegal merchandise, moving through a large area of South America that could house the entire United States. Traffickers frequently move cocaine from countries such as Colombia to Central America and Mexico in fishing boats, boats and commercial cargo vessels, and even in homemade submarines.
The operation comes after five years of historical seizures by the Coast Guard. However, US officials say that due to limited resources, the smaller US military service barely traps around 25% of illegal shipments in the Pacific.
Despite this, the Coast Guard seizes three times more cocaine annually than is confiscated on the US-Mexico border. Despite this, maritime traffic does not yet generate the attention of lawmakers, as does the flow of drugs through the nearly 2,000 miles of land border, where the government of President Donald Trump wants to spend billions of dollars to build a wall
Almost 20% of the cocaine that leaves South America ends up in the United States, and most of it lands first in Mexico from maritime traffickers. Their boats are expected to be stopped before their shipments are taken to Mexican trucks that travel several routes to the US border, officials said. Older vessels can move up to 20 tons of cocaine.
Historically, Mexico has been one of the Latin American countries most reluctant to embark on joint operations with the United States, which dates back to the 170-year Mexican-American war. The United States cannot open military bases in Mexico and, for example, US authorities cannot enter Mexican waters without prior permission, even when they are chasing drug trafficking vessels.
Now, the Coast Guard stops its pursuit and alerts the Mexican authorities if a suspicious vessel enters its territorial waters.
It is unknown how this new cooperative effort will affect these restrictions.
Treaties with countries such as Colombia have allowed US authority’s greater scope, such as allowing the Coast Guard elements to board vessels under the Colombian flag. The US authorities have praised joint anti-narcotics efforts with Colombia as a model for the region.
The military relationship between the United States and Mexico has been strengthened since both nations signed the Merida Initiative in 2008 to collaborate in the fight against drugs. More training has been carried out on both sides of the border, especially with the Armed Navy of Mexico, which is considered a less corrupt organization than the Mexican Army, and which has been highlighted with the capture and death of drug lords.
The joint operation was planned in a series of meetings during the last year. Maritime services signed letters of intent to work together in the fight against organized crime and respect the sovereignty and territorial waters of each country.
David Shirk, associate professor of political science at the University of San Diego, said the operation fits in with Trump’s promise to go after the “bad men,” while President Enrique Peña Nieto has acknowledged that organized crime is so serious that Mexico needs help.
“In the presence of more sectors delimited by walls on the border, we have seen drug trafficking organizations literally looking for underground or coastal routes,” Shirk said.
Last year, the Coast Guard seized more than 455,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $ 6 billion and arrested more than 600 drug suspects for trial in the United States. The Coast Guard has been criticized for holding suspects on the high seas, where they do not have easy access to lawyers. Shirk said the joint operations could lead to “serious violations of the rights of suspects on the high seas and possible violations of human rights during the process.”
Coast Guard authorities say they respect the rights of suspects. The case will be defined with the three countries that participate in the operation will be sent to the suspects.
US military officials have been reluctant to discuss publicly the details of cooperation with their Mexican counterparts, susceptible to historical public scrutiny and recent criticism between the two presidents.