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Cops in Latin America have seized drugs, including cocaine, worth $5 billion. It was done as part of an operation that lasted three weeks and included 15 countries.

Police carried out almost 15,000 arrests and also seized over 8,000 illicit firearms, reported BBC.

Information was exchanged between cops from Mexico in the north to Argentina in the south. The operation was coordinated by Interpol, which said that the arrests had disrupted the workings of many powerful gangs.

The main aim of the collective effort, known as Trigger IX, was to combat the trafficking of illicit firearms.

Experts from the countries that participated in the operation came together at a center of operations in Foz do Iguaçu. It is a city on Brazil's border with Paraguay and Argentina. This happened from March 12 to April 2. There, they exchanged information on the workings of international crime gangs. The list included First Capital Command (PCC), and Mara Salvatrucha.

The smuggling of weapons strengthens the gangs' power and further helps in their criminal activities, Interpol said.

Commenting on the 203 tonnes of cocaine and other drugs found, Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said that the fact that an operation targeting "illicit firearms resulted in such massive drug seizures is further proof, if needed, that these crimes are intertwined."

Stock shared that the organized crime networks behind the illicit activities have "only one priority, which is profit."

Criminal gangs in Central and South America and Mexico are well-armed. Many times, local police find themselves outgunned while facing the gangs.

For instance, in Brazil and Paraguay, members of the PCC have staged prison breaks and large-scale bank robberies. The gang first emerged in Brazil and went on to operate internationally.

In Central America, Mara Salvatrucha continues to control the majority of human trafficking and the smuggling of weapons and drugs.

Interpol said that the latest operation helped them to seize huge amounts of ammunition even in countries that have not been linked with gun violence on a large scale. Police in Uruguay seized 100,000 pieces of ammunition, which is the largest amount found in the country by cops.

Meanwhile, The Tico Times reported that the El Salvador government recently implemented a huge crackdown on gangs. It resulted in the arrest of more than 40,000 suspected gang members.

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