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U.S. Discovers Major Cross-Border Drug Smuggling Tunnel


By Elliot Spagat, Associated Press

(AP) — A large haul of drugs, including opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine, being smuggled from Mexico to California was seized from a cross-border tunnel equipped with ventilation, lighting and an underground rail system, authorities said Tuesday.

The tunnel connected warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego, extending about 2,000 feet (610 meters) with an average depth of 31 feet (9.5 meters) and width of 3 feet (0.9 meter), according to the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, an investigative team made up of several federal agencies. Investigators believe the tunnel existed for several months “due to the advanced construction observed in several portions.”

Authorities seized more than two tons of a variety of drugs, a departure from earlier discoveries that consisted largely of marijuana. The discovery of the tunnel on March 19 netted about 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) of cocaine, 86 pounds (39 kilograms) of methamphetamine, 17 pounds (7.7 kilograms) of heroin, 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms) of marijuana and more than two pounds (0.9 kilogram) of fentanyl.

Cartels “make their decisions based on contacts or where they think they’re more likely to get the drugs through,” said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit.

The tunnel was built near a vaunted double-layered border wall constructed under President Donald Trump’s watch, illustrating the limitations of such barriers against sophisticated drug smuggling organizations. While border walls built under Trump go underground to deter digging, they are not nearly deep enough to stop the most advanced secret passageways. Nonetheless, in early 2019, Trump stated that a border wall will deter drug smuggling.

In 2016, drug cartels retrofitted a van with a 10-foot cannon to shoot drugs across the Arizona/Mexico border.

The discovery marked the first time that five types of drugs were found in a single tunnel in San Diego, a magnet for Mexican cartels for its clay-like soil and abundance of industrial warehouses on both sides of the border that give cover for trucks and heavy construction equipment.

No arrests were made but authorities said the investigation was open.

San Diego Tunnel Task Force/Department of Homeland Security via AP

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