Mexico's cartels continue to flaunt their engineering capabilities with the discovery of a drug trafficking tunnel on the US-Mexico border, drawing further attention to the growing power of one of the country's younger criminal organizations.
Mexican authorities have discovered an 800-metre long "narcotunnel" on the border between Tijuana and San Diego, simultaneously seizing around 10 tons of marijuana destined for the United States.
Sixteen men between 21 and 50 years of age were arrested on site. They later admitted to involvement in drug trafficking and to having links with what appears to be the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG), according to Proceso.
The 10-metre deep tunnel was built with a railway line for transporting drugs, lighting, ventilation and metal support beams. The entrance was located in a Tijuana neighborhood after weeks of police investigation.
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This most recent narcotunnel is an impressive engineering feat even compared to the Mexican cartels' past exploits, measuring 300 meters more than a 2013 "super tunnel" described as one of the most sophisticated structures of its kind ever to be discovered. Indeed, narcotunnels aren't a new tactic for Mexican cartels, and have been popping up along the border for years. The Sinaloa Cartel's Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the country's most wanted man, has built quite a name for himself as a tunnels expert, and used an underground passageway to escape from a high-security prison in July 2015.
What this new tunnel does go to show is that whoever constructed it – and fingers are pointing to the Jalisco Cartel – has a significant amount of wealth and power in the region. This relatively new arrival to the underworld has already been touted as Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organization. They have flexed their muscle in recent months by ambushing police officers and even shooting down a military helicopter.
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But do these shows of strength and technical ability place CJNG above their rivals? Fighting over territorial control in Tijuana – a key drug transit point – has seen the decline of the once mighty Arellano Felix organization, and the rise of the Sinaloa Cartel. According to the DEA other drug trafficking groups, such as the CJNG, have also been shifting cargo across the border with the permission of the Sinaloans.
It is possible that this new cartel is among the country's strongest at the moment, but whether or not it can operate independently on such strategic territory without Sinaloa Cartel blessing is questionable.