MEXICO CITY — U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday that U.S. intelligence helped Mexico capture a cocaine-laden smuggling small submarine this week.
As the Mexican navy finished hauling the 33-foot vessel to shore, Chertoff disclosed that the U.S. government had shared information with Mexican authorities before Wednesday's successful operation.
"We shared information with the Mexican navy, but the Mexican navy acted alone in actually executing the seizures: their marines, their helicopters, their naval vessels," Chertoff told reporters here after meetings with Mexican officials on security issues.
He did not specify what type of information U.S. officials had passed along before Mexican commandos seized the vessel and its four-member Colombian crew.
While the homemade vessels are being used increasingly by Colombian drug suppliers as a way to evade radar detection, it was the first time one was captured off the coast of Mexico, officials said.
Mexican military officials said after getting the seized vessel to shore Friday that it contained 5.8 tons of cocaine. That much cocaine could be worth about $150-million in the United States.
Mexican commandos, lowered by rope from a helicopter, captured the submersible craft and arrested its crew in the Pacific Ocean 125 miles from the southern state of Oaxaca.
The military had said it moved after receiving intelligence from domestic and international agencies but did not elaborate.
Chertoff's remarks were the first confirmation of a U.S. role in the operation, which he called an example of cooperation between the two nations in crime-fighting.