Official: Drug Seizures in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands Increase


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Federal authorities announced Monday that they discovered more than $4 million worth of cocaine stashed in bushes along Puerto Rico's north coast as they find more drug shipments but with smaller payloads in the U.S. Caribbean.

Some 340 pounds (154 kilograms) of cocaine were found at a popular beach in the town of Isabela, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. One man was arrested.

It's one of the largest seizures in recent months. A group of federal agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard report an increase in cocaine and marijuana seizures in waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the past year, but with fewer large ones.

"We're seeing more interdictions with smaller loads," Capt. Robert Warren, U.S. Coast Guard commander in San Juan, told The Associated Press. "In the past, we got primarily the big loads coming up from the south."

More than 16,000 kilograms (35,000 pounds) of cocaine were seized in the past fiscal year, a nearly 10 percent increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, more than 18,000 pounds (8,000 kilograms) of marijuana have been seized, a 138 percent increase from fiscal year 2014.

Warren attributed the increase in part to more federal resources after Puerto Rico reported a record 1,164 killings in 2011.

"It was the growing violence and the association with the drug flow that got national attention," he said.

The number of slayings in Puerto Rico has since dropped to the lowest point in decades, but drug seizures have only increased.

Puerto Rico police alone have reported a 170 percent jump in heroin and marijuana seizures and a 47 percent increase in cocaine seizures.

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