Over $1Bn Worth Of Drugs Have Been Unloaded In Fort Lauderdale Florida After Being Seized Off South America By US Coastguard

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.

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.

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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