Federal agencies are claiming major successes against the two most powerful Colombia-based cartels, reports the Washington Times. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spent the year seizing record amounts of cocaine in the largely forgotten war on drugs. ICE “achieved unprecedented success,” working closely with Colombian authorities and others to interdict a mountain of more than 340,000 pounds of cocaine and 2.6 million pounds of marijuana, said ICE Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia. The Coast Guard, making major seizures in the Caribbean and Colombian basin, seized 255,233 pounds of cocaine, breaking the annual record set in 1997.
The year’s major development was the extradition of several key players in the once-dominant Cali drug cartel and the arrests of two top bosses in the Norte Valle cartel, which authorities say is responsible for about 40 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. “It’s been a banner year in bringing some these top guys down,” one ICE official said. The arrests signal progress in the joint U.S.-Colombian effort to fight the drug war. Arrests in Colombia can be carried out only by local authorities, but U.S. authorities claim a key role, with ICE agents and others operating with Colombians in Bogota.