Colombia's navy said Monday that in the eighth phase of Operation Orion, a multinational naval operation against drug trafficking organized by authorities across Europe and the Americas, a total of 145.3 tonnes of cocaine had been seized.

According to Reuters, the navy of Colombia noted that military and police authorities from over 40 countries in Europe and the Americas achieved the highest amount of cocaine seized during the operation so far.

The countries of Argentina, Belize, France, and Suriname were among the more than 40 countries which took part in Operation Orion's eighth phase.

The Colombian navy said around 575 individuals of different nationalities were captured during the campaign, which ran from October to November. The navy added that their operation did not only immobilize 49 vessels but also six submarines and three planes.

Aside from cocaine, the operation also confiscated 66 tons of marijuana. Based on Colombia's navy, since the launch of Operation Orion in 2018, the combined effort has seized more than 545 tonnes of cocaine and 224 tonnes of marijuana.

Despite decades of fighting drug trafficking, Colombia remained a top global producer of cocaine. The South American country faced constant pressure from the United States in reducing coca crops used as the drug's main ingredient and the production of cocaine.

The U.S. pressured Colombia since the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy last year recorded that the cocaine production capacity of Colombia rose 7.9% to 1,010 tonnes.

Aside from the ELN or National Liberation Army in Colombia, former members of the demobilized militant group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who rejected the 2016 peace deal, were also involved in drug trafficking operations in the country.

According to security sources, the distribution of cocaine and marijuana was also operated by criminal gangs in Colombia. Forbes reported that Colombia's armed forces made their largest drug bust of the year last week after they confiscated 10 tonnes of cocaine from the ELN.

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Colombia's Illegal Drug Trade

 The illegal drug trade in Colombia started in the 1970s, and it was centered on four major drug trafficking cartels, Medellin, Cali, North Coast, and Norte del Valle.

According to Wikipedia, the Colombian government's efforts to reduce the influence of drug-related criminal organizations was one of the roots of the "Colombian conflict."

The said "conflict" is an ongoing low-intensity war among rival guerrillas, narco-paramilitary groups, and drug cartels fighting one another to heighten their influence and control in the country. They were also against the government of Colombia that struggles to stop them.

Colombia's Most-Wanted Drug Lord Dairo Antonio Usuga Arrested

Dairo Antonio Usuga, the most-wanted drug lord and the leader of Colombia's largest criminal gang, was arrested by the country's security forces in October.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said it was the "biggest blow to drug trafficking" in Colombia since the fall of Pablo Escobar.

Usuga, widely known by his alias "Otoniel," stayed on the run for more than a decade. He has been allegedly sending dozens of shipments of cocaine to the United States, killing police officers, recruiting minors, as well as sexually abusing children.

Otoniel is known to be the head of the notorious Gulf Clan, whose assassins terrorized most of northern Colombia to secure the control of major cocaine smuggling routes to Central America and onto the U.S.

Gulf Clan is also called Los Urabeños, and Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces or Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia. The U.S. Justice Department has described the group as a "heavily armed, extremely violent" criminal group with former members of terrorist organizations.

Usuga has been on the most-wanted fugitives list of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, with a $5 million reward for his capture.

Colombia also offered a reward of up to $800,000 for information leading to his capture. Otoniel was first indicted in 2009 in a Manhattan federal court on drug trafficking charges. He was also known to be facing criminal charges in Brooklyn and Miami for drug trafficking and firearms charges. Duque said his government was working on extraditing Otoniel, most likely to the United States. 

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This article is owned by Latin Post.

Written by: Jess Smith

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