Saturday, December 18, 2010

Businesses Enlisted To Ferret Out Drug Tunnels



A Mexican soldier stands guard next to marijuana packages removed from an underground tunnel between the Mexican border city of Tijuana and Otay Mesa, an industrial area of San Diego. Rail tracks were laid by the smugglers to ferry the tons of drugs on a motorized cart.

by AMY ISACKSON
NPR

Federal authorities are trying a new tactic to find underground drug smuggling tunnels near the Mexico border in San Diego, after finding two tunnels last month and seizing 50 tons of marijuana.

Authorities are now going door to door, asking business owners to help them look for signs of underground tunnel construction and existing tunnels.

Sophisticated Passageways

About four blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border, in San Diego's Otay Mesa, there are about 600 generic-looking warehouses. Federal authorities plan to visit them all.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who asked not to be named for security reasons is visiting warehouse owners with members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force. "Otay Mesa is a real hotbed area for subterrain [drug] tunnels," says the agent.

The two tunnels unearthed by authorities last month were found a few blocks from where the agent is going door to door. The tunnels were sophisticated, with electricity and ventilation. And they weren't the first passageways found in the area.

In 2006, authorities discovered the longest tunnel ever, a mile-and-a-half-long tunnel also found inside a nearby warehouse.

ICE is now asking people who work in these warehouses to be on the lookout for things like "subterranean noises or jackhammering without a visible road crew," says the agent.

'We Don't Know And Hear Nothing'

As agents make their rounds, they ask to look around the warehouses.

Inside of one, there are hundreds of boxes bound for Carl's Jr. restaurants in Mexico.

Gabriel Andrade, who manages the operation, points to boxes of toys for kids' meals and boxes of cheese. He says he never suspected a thing when he would drive by one of the buildings where authorities found a tunnel last month.

"I think it is very hard to know," says Andrade. "[There] is a lot of traffic of trucks and we don't know and hear nothing."

Andrade says it's also difficult to see anything. He says, for example, that the warehouse next to his has the doors closed all day.

The agents decide to visit that warehouse next. Inside, workers are using a forklift to unload boxes of chicken taquitos to be sent to U.S. grocers.

Margarito Calleja is the manager. He says they keep the doors down to keep the sun off the food. "Really, we don't communicate with people at other warehouses," says Calleja. "You arrive. You go inside. You do your work. You leave at 6 in the afternoon. Adios. Bye-bye."

There's constant commotion in this area, which is just a few blocks from the commercial border crossing. And Joe Garcia with ICE says that's part of why tunnelers like the area.

"You have shipping and distribution going on almost around the clock now. There's a lot of truck traffic. It is a perfect cover for them," Garcia says.

Inside A Drug Smuggling Tunnel

On Election Day, a tunnel was found in an empty Otay Mesa warehouse. It was about 600 yards long and began inside an empty warehouse in Tijuana. U.S. and Mexican authorities seized more than 30 tons of pot in connection with this tunnel, which is a record seizure for the U.S.

A second tunnel surfaced on Thanksgiving Day in the corner of another empty Otay Mesa warehouse. The humid-smelling passageway to Mexico is about 2,200 feet long.

The tunnel began in the kitchen floor of a home in Tijuana. It plunges 90 feet, and smugglers laid tracks at the bottom to ferry the drugs on a cart. Agents say they believe it took 220 days to dig.

Garcia says it's impossible to know how many tunnels are under the border.

"I'd be naive to say, 'No, we got them all. It's done. We're over,' " Garcia says.

But Garcia says it would also be naive not to enlist Otay Mesa business owners in the hunt.

9 comments:

  1. Ovemex...
    you know what I think of this.
    It would be laughable if not so disgusting.

    OLD METHOD OF TUNNEL DISCOVERY:
    following suspicious vehicles
    waiting for a perp to squeal

    NEW WAY:
    "so, have you seen any suspicious behavior or transports, or big hole in ground?" asked to the potential employee of the cartels, or another co. close by, everyday folks who will freely speak not giving a fuck for her/his safety or that of his/her family.....

    WHen I first saw this article this week I was excited thinking they would use the high tech devices availble.

    I should have known better....LAUGHABLE

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  2. when the government opened free trade it had no plan(s)how to monitor cargo - then the tunnels - what did they think would happen ?

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  3. @buela:

    Remember the whole food poisoning deal that when down about a year and a half, maybe two years ago?

    Fisrst it was thought to be Mexican tomatoes then it was discovered to be jalapeños?

    The US F.D.A. was able to pinpoint the warehouse, then carrier of the poison peppers and within about a week they were actually able to pinpoint the exact peeper farm it came from in Mexico (Now if THAT'S not finding a needle in a haystack I don't know what the hell is!)

    Maybe the FDA should look for tunnels too? jajaja

    Now to be serious, Although it sounds outrageous (and I'm hoping asking people door to door does not replace the need to get serious about these tunnels on both sides of the border) I guess just asking around can't hurt..The military needs civilian participation, everyone knows something.

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  4. @ Ovemex

    Exactly!!! Go figure. They can detect earthquake faults deep into the earth, but not a damn Cartel tunnel...

    I remember the Jalapeño disaster well...unfortunately I was a victim, got so sick I thought I would die...I swore I would never eat another in my life...of course I still love and eat them

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  5. Can you imagine being a mexican and the military is knocking at your door asking you if you know anything? ....

    'why sure, right over there...my name is so and so, and well you already know where I live...glad to be of service'

    You know they'd be shitting on themselves for even opening the door to them. Nobody knows who the soldiers are really working for.

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  6. @December 18, 2010 4:07 PM

    Actually the soldiers are the only ones that the people trust. Shows much you know about Mexico...your prob a newcomer to BB, so sit down enjoy some coffee and read some of the stories...before you start commenting and you will see the military has been the only ones going after these drug organizations and their leaders...good day.

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  7. Not all Mexicans adore their thuggish military anymore than that holds true with US citizens.

    Ernest1

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  8. on the trust scale...in Mexico.. the Marinas are first ..secundo the Army..proximo the federal policia


    as for me i have affection and respect for all our US military..i was one of those young knuckleheads once ...

    now the men who give the orders ...well now sometimes i think some of them need to be whipped naked through the streets...

    but in reality they ( our elected government) just do what the maestros occulta dice ...so they are just like good dogs attacking and biting who they are sic"d on...

    Americans are mostly good people ..but we have a vampire on our necks...sucking the life out of us...it is called credit, debt, and inflation

    our mass media tells us what to think...just like i heard them say on NPR one day ..NPR... giving you something to think about...

    RIGHT..so i don't ever think about what is really happening

    run willy nilly after causes, while our country crumbles around us

    ReplyDelete
  9. I figured you had come through the military to become so personally conservatized in your personal opinions, Brito. No need to stay 'knucklelized' though... now that you pulled yourself out of the US military more or less still intact.

    'as for me (Brito) i have affection and respect for all our US military..i was one of those young knuckleheads once ...'

    Read some about Marine General John Smedley Butler...
    (1881–1940), Marine officer, antiwar crusader

    Born into an old Pennsylvania Quaker family, Butler nevertheless joined the Marines as a lieutenant when the Spanish‐American War broke out in 1898. The campaigned in expeditions and military occupations from 1898 onward, spanning the transition from colonial punitive warfare to mediatory peacekeeping: Cuba, the Philippines (1899, 1905–07), China (1900), Honduras (1903), Panama (1903, 1909–14), Nicaragua (1910–12), Mexico (1914), Haiti (1915–18), France (1917–18), and finally China again as commander of the Marine peacekeeping force (1927–29). Winner of two Congressional Medals of Honor, “Old Gimlet‐Eye,” as he was called, promoted a warrior‐style Marine Corps mystique of physical stridency and anti‐intellectual egalitarianism, contrary to contemporary trends toward elitist, bookish professionalism.

    Drawing upon his experience organizing colonial constabularies, Butler attempted to militarize Philadelphia's police force as its director (1924–25) during the Prohibition era, and became a leading proponent of national paramilitary police reform in the late twenties and early thirties. After premature retirement from the Marines as a major general in 1931, he renounced war and imperialism, becoming the most prominent leader of the formidable veterans' antiwar movement during the isolationist era of the mid‐ and late 1930s.

    Here are some quotes from this great American...

    My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military.
    Smedley Butler

    There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.
    Smedley Butler

    War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
    Smedley Butler

    War is just a racket... I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else.
    Smedley Butler

    Ernest1

    ReplyDelete

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