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Florida: Over $1bn worth of cocaine and marijuana unloaded in Fort Lauderdale after being seized off South America by US coastguard

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Drugs worth more than $1bn (£730m), which were seized during US operations off the coast of South America, have been unloaded on to land.

Over 30 tons of cocaine and marijuana were brought back to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by the coastguard cutter ship James following a months-long deployment.

A member of the U.S. Coast Guard stands watch as the Coast Guard and other agencies prepare to unload more than one billion dollars worth of seized drugs from Coast Guard Cutter James at Port Everglades, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Coast Guard said the haul included approximately 54,500 pounds of cocaine and 15,800 pounds of marijuana from multiple interdictions in the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
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Members of the coastguard on board the cutter ship James. Pic: AP

It was one of the biggest hauls in recent history and shows how the coastguard is using increasingly sophisticated techniques such as drones and infrared cameras which can detect heat from small cocaine-laden vessels.

But it also highlights a recent narcotics surge from Colombia, which is a close US ally and the world’s top cocaine producer.

Officials from President Biden’s administration travelled to Florida on Thursday to welcome the crew back.

“We are hitting the drug traffickers where it hits them most: their pocketbooks,” said Dr Rahul Gupta, head of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Mr Gupta said the Biden administration is trying to increase the government’s budget to build up the nation’s addiction treatment infrastructure and reduce the supply of synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and other drugs.

The recent drug busts by the coastguard, federal police and partner nations indicate the flow of cocaine coming from Latin America has not eased since Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs.

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard stand alongside bundles of seized cocaine and marijuana worth more than one billion dollars, aboard Coast Guard Cutter James at Port Everglades, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Coast Guard said the haul included approximately 54,500 pounds of cocaine and 15,800 pounds of marijuana from multiple interdictions in the Caribbean Sea and the eastern Pacific. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
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The drugs were brought to Fort Lauderdale. Pic AP

Coca cultivation in Colombia in 2020 increased to 245,000 hectares (945 square miles), which is enough to produce 1,010 metric tonnes of cocaine, according to the White House’s latest report on harvesting trends.

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