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Mexican Cartel Takes Drug Smuggling to New Heights

Drugs routinely flow out of Mexico and into the United States, but some of the smuggling tactics of late have reached “James Bond” status. Proof of that can be seen in a recent drug transportation attempt along the border. Instead of hiding drugs in the dashboards of cars or inside spare tires, one group of smugglers took to the skies.

It’s Raining Meth

People near the San Ysidro Port of Entry were in for a big surprise when an unmanned drone crashed in Tijuana last Tuesday. But this was no ordinary drone. In fact, this particular aerial device was carrying a modest cargo of crystal meth bound for the U.S. drug market. It’s the first time smugglers have used drones to pass drugs through the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

Shortly after the drone experienced technical difficulties, it crashed into a Tijuana supermarket parking lot. Authorities later reported that six packages of crystal meth (weighing approximately three kilograms) were attached to the drone using little more than strips of black tape and some plastic webbing.

The Trafficking Business

Cartels and other drug trafficking organizations have increasingly used drones to send drugs across the border. That’s because they much cheaper to build than highly-involved underground tunnels and can avoid radar detection.

The DEA reported that drones were used for 150 drug smuggling trips across the border in 2012. Some Mexican cartels have reportedly started funding development programs to build their own drones.

President Barack Obama requested $39 million to create a surveillance program along the U.S. – Mexico border that would include the use of unmanned drones.

President Barack Obama has acknowledged that drone smuggling poses a serious problem. He requested $39 million to create a surveillance program along the U.S. – Mexico border that would include the use of unmanned drones. A letter he wrote to House Speaker Rep. John Boehner last July said the program “would support a sustained border security surge through enhanced domestic enforcement.”

The Product Shift

Drug traffickers are not only changing their smuggling methods; they’re also changing the types of drugs that are sent across the border.

New statistics show that the legalization of marijuana in several U.S. states led to less Mexican pot coming across the border, inadvertently creating a spike in both the heroin and meth trades. Heroin seizures rose to 2,181 kilograms last year – nearly tripling the amount confiscated at the border in 2009.

As for methamphetamine, approximately 15,803 kilograms of crystal meth was seized last year by border patrol officials, compared to the 3,076 kilograms seized in 2009.

“Criminal organizations are no longer going for bulk marijuana,” said Sidney Aki, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port Director at a crossing just south of San Diego. “Hard drugs are the growing trend, and they’re profitable in small amounts.”

Additional Reading: A Vicious Cycle: Stimulant Drugs and Compulsive Sex

Image Credits: Tijuana Police/TheMonitor