Karen P. Tandy
Panama Cocaine Seizure Press Conference
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
Washington, D.C.
March 21, 2007 12:30 p.m

Administrator Tandy often departs from prepared remarks

For those of you keeping score, let me recap where we are this year in the war against drugs. It’s been victory after victory:

3 days ago, the Coast Guard—as a result of joint DEA and Panamian law enforcement information—made the largest maritime seizure of drugs the world has ever seen. On the high seas of the eastern Pacific bound for Mexico, we stopped the freighter Gatun before it could deliver 21 tons of cocaine—denying Mexican drug lords $300 million in drug revenue and severely disrupting their transportation organization.

6 days ago—in an unrelated operation—our Mexican partners, working closely with DEA, seized $205 million in cash from methamphetamine chemical traffickers. This was the largest drug cash seizure ever made, beating a record set just 2 months ago when Colombian authorities, working with DEA, seized $80 million in cash and gold in Cali.

61 days ago, in an unprecedented action, 11 Mexican drug criminals were extradited to the United States. Never before have so many high-level traffickers—including a violent kingpin—from all 4 of Mexico’s major drug cartels been sent here to face U.S. justice.

That makes 3 big strikes in less than 2 months against the once untouchable and feared Mexican drug cartels responsible for so much of the drug supply in the United States. And that makes 3 big victories in the global fight against drugs.

DEA and our partners are shattering our own records as quickly as we make them. More than that, we’re shattering drug organizations financially and operationally.

Later today, 11 of the 16 arrested are expected to arrive in Tampa to face U.S. prosecution. The drug trafficking organization transporting the 21 tons of cocaine off the coast of Panama did so brazenly. Although most traffickers conceal their poisons in loads of legitimate cargo or in hidden compartments—this organization did none of that. They simply loaded bales of cocaine into cargo containers stored in plain view on the main deck of the freighter. Their flagrant disregard of international drug laws has now cost them their freedom. And it has landed us their precious cargo--$ 300 million-$600 million worth of cocaine. The Gatun was one big fish that didn’t get away.