Pubdate: Sat, 02 Nov 2013
Source: International New York Times (International)
Copyright: 2013 The New York Times Company
Note: Was International Herald-Tribune until Nov. 2013
Authors: Liam Dillon and Ian Lovett


A deep tunnel snaking nearly 600 yards from Mexico under the border 
and into a San Diego warehouse is one of the most sophisticated 
underground drug smuggling passageways ever discovered, complete with 
electricity, ventilation and an electronic rail system, according to 
federal authorities.

The tunnel, which was shut down Wednesday night after several weeks 
of surveillance, took about a year to build, the authorities said 
Thursday. Three people were taken into custody, and federal agents 
seized eight tons of marijuana and 325 pounds, or 147 kilograms, of 
cocaine they said was connected to the investigation.

As security at the border - both at the ports of entry and between 
them - has heightened in recent years, drug cartels have increasingly 
sought other avenues to move drugs into the United States. This was 
the fifth large-scale drug smuggling tunnel discovered in the San 
Diego area since 2010, the authorities said, and the eighth since 
2006, when the Sinaloa drug cartel took control of the smuggling 
corridor along this section of the border.

"These cartels have spent years and tens of millions of dollars 
trying to create a secret underworld of passages so they can move 
large quantities of drugs," said Laura Duffy, the United States 
attorney for the San Diego region.

Derek Benner, special agent in charge for Homeland Security 
Department investigations in San Diego, said sophisticated tunnels 
like the one found here - which required not only laborers to build 
but also architects and engineers, and could have cost over $1 
million to construct - were an investment only a well-financed cartel 
could afford to make.

He said the tunnel - like the two most recent "super tunnels" in the 
region, which were discovered in late 2011 - was shut down before any 
narcotics reached the market in the United States, which he called a 
major blow to the cartel.

"They're desperate," said William R. Sherman, special agent in charge 
for the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego. "We're starting 
to see them try to move cocaine through these tunnels, which we've 
never seen before. We're seeing them try to move cocaine through 
ultra-lights into the desert, which we've never seen before. And 
those are simply acts of desperation."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom