US announces major drug bust in Caribbean

US Customs and Border Protection announced the capture of two high-speed boats in the Caribbean loaded with more than 4,840 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of cocaine worth more than $362 million.

A Florida-based P-3 reconnaissance plane detected the two vessels on April 20 some 120 miles (190 kilometers) off the east coast of Panama and notified local authorities, who chased the two boats.

"One vessel abandoned the contraband before arriving on shore, while the second go-fast (vessel) was seized nearby," the border patrol said.

"A US Navy vessel operating in the area retrieved 89 bales of cocaine from the scene," it said.

The border patrol said the Florida-based reconnaissance planes -- originally designed to hunt submarines -- had helped authorities seize some $2.8 billion worth of cocaine since October 2011.

The long-range aircraft monitor a 42 million square mile (100 million square kilometer) area in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific in search of drug smugglers, the customs service said.

"By providing surveillance of known air, land, and maritime smuggling routes in an area that is twice the size of the continental US, the P-3s detect, monitor and disrupt smuggling activities before they reach shore."

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