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Coast Guard seizes 20,000 pounds of cocaine and offloads it in San Diego

A Coast Guard official said the cocaine was headed to Central America to be diluted with other chemicals before being smuggled into the United States.
Coast Guard Cutter Munro conducts drug offload in San Diego
Coast Guard members gather before preparing bales of cocaine to be offloaded from the Coast Guard cutter Munro in San Diego on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020.Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Gray / U.S. Coast Guard

The Coast Guard offloaded about $338 million worth of cocaine in San Diego on Monday, the result of a monthslong operation in the Pacific Ocean.

Four crews acquired nearly 20,000 pounds of cocaine from "known drug-transit zones" off Mexico, Central America and South America, the Coast Guard said. Crews from the cutters Thetis, Resolute, Tampa and Munro made eight seizures from mid-November to mid-January.

Rear Adm. Peter Gautier, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District, said Monday that the cocaine was headed to Central America to be diluted with other chemicals before being smuggled into the United States. Operations like this, according to Gautier, provide "invaluable information" to stop the supply chain of illegal drugs.

"By disrupting the profits of these cartels, we are reducing their effectiveness and helping our partner nations maintain their stability," Gautier said.

A crew member, who was not named, told NBC San Diego that the bust was "exhilarating."

"We're out here doing this great job, helping people out, stopping the bad guys," the crew member said. "It's an honor being aboard this boat and with the Coast Guard doing this."

Monday's offload is the latest in a number of high-volume drug seizures the Coast Guard has made in recent months.

The Coast Guard unloaded 27,300 pounds of cocaine and 11,000 pounds of marijuana found in international waters in Florida in October. Weeks before that, it announced that it had captured a 40-foot-long submarine carrying 12,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $165 million in the Pacific Ocean.

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Vice President Mike Pence was present in July when the Coast Guard offloaded 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana seized in the Pacific Ocean from May to July. The estimated value of those drugs was about $569 million.

The Munro was part of that operation, as well, its first drug patrol since it was commissioned in 2017. The vessel is one of six state-of-the-art cutters added to the Coast Guard fleet in recent years, it told NBC News in July.