Dramatic new footage released by Mexico’s Navy shows officers carrying out a major drug bust after a high-speed chase at sea.

The footage, which has been widely reported on in the media, depicts a pair of operations carried out by the Navy; in one, an officer can be seen descending from an overhead helicopter to arrive on a boat that was carrying a large amount of drugs.

According to CTV News, “Mexican authorities say they have seized some 9,700 pounds of cocaine during two operations on Aug. 22 and 23 in the Pacific Ocean.”

“Both operations resulted in high-speed boat chases at sea,” CTV News reported. “Mexican authorities say they also found more than 5,000 litres of fuel. Eleven people were detained and handed over to the prosecutor’s office.”

Cocaine trafficking has exploded in recent years.

A report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released earlier this year indicated that production of cocaine had skyrocketed to record levels after lagging for a stretch during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a disruptive effect on drug markets. With international travel severely curtailed, producers struggled to get their product to market. Night clubs and bars were shut as officials ramped up their attempts to control the virus, causing demand to slump for drugs like cocaine that are often associated with those settings,” the report said.

“However, the most recent data suggests this slump has had little impact on longer-term trends. The global supply of cocaine is at record levels. Almost 2,000 tons was produced in 2020, continuing a dramatic uptick in manufacture that began in 2014, when the total was less than half of today’s levels.”

According to the report, the surge in cocaine has “partly [been] a result of an expansion in coca bush cultivation, which doubled between 2013 and 2017, hit a peak in 2018, and rose sharply again in 2021.”

“But it is also due to improvements in the process of conversion from coca bush to cocaine hydrochloride. In parallel, there has been a continuing growth in demand, with most regions showing steadily rising numbers of users over the past decade. Although these increases can be partly explained by population growth, there is also a rising prevalence of cocaine use. Interceptions by law enforcement have also been on the rise, at a higher speed than production, meaning that interdiction has contained the growth of the global amount of cocaine available for consumption,” the report stated

Given all that, perhaps it isn’t a coincidence that news of major cocaine busts seem to surface regularly these days.

In June, law enforcement officials in Uruguay broke up an international drug ring after police there were alerted to half a dozen surfboards that contained a total of 50kg (110lb) of cocaine.

Three Italians were arrested as part of the bust.

In May, police in Hong Kong seized $82.97 million worth of cocaine and cannabis. 

And in February, law enforcement authorities in New Zealand announced that they had sezied “3.2 tonnes of cocaine afloat” in the Pacific Ocean, saying they had taken roughly a half-billion dollars worth of the drug out of circulation.

The report from the United Nations explained that consolidation has upended the cocaine trade in one of the drug’s longstanding hubs, Colombia.

“The cocaine trade in Colombia was once controlled by just a few major players. As a result of a fragmentation of the criminal landscape following the demobilization of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in 2016, it now involves criminal groups of all sizes, structures and objectives,” the report said. “But, signs of consolidation of some of these groups have recently emerged. These developments have led to an increasing presence of foreign actors in Colombia. Mexican and Balkan criminal groups have moved closer to the centre of production to gain access to supplies and wholesale quantities of cocaine. These foreign groups are not aiming to take control of territory. Instead, they are trying to make supply lines more efficient. Their presence is helping to incentivize coca bush cultivation and finance all stages of the supply chain.” 

It continued: “In established cocaine markets, the proportion of the general population using the drug is high. But these markets only cover around one-fifth of the global population. If the prevalence in other regions increases to match established markets, the number of users globally would increase tremendously because of the large underlying population. This type of market convergence has already been happening in the case of Western and Central Europe, where purity levels and prices have harmonised with the United States, although prevalence of cocaine use in Western and Central Europe has not yet reached the level in the United States.”

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