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    5 Sep 2016

    Illegal Tunnel System Of The US-Mexico Border (30 pics)

    There are tunnels all along the 2,000-mile frontier between the US and Mexico that were dug by drug traffickers. They are also used for illegal immigration. Journalist Ioan Grillo said “The Mexico-US border is like a block of cheese with holes in it, with tunnels across it.”

    “Many, many years ago, they were very unsophisticated. They weren't very long. They were relatively short,” Vigil said. The first so-called narco tunnel was built in 1989, by the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.
    A tool is seen in a tunnel under the US-Mexico border that started in Tecate and ran into Southern California, December 4, 2007. Gunmen killed the police chief of Tecate, a Mexican city bordering California, by shooting him some 50 times in an apparent revenge attack after police found the drug-smuggling tunnel under the border.

    "You look at some tunnels which are very, very basic, and I've been to look at some of these from the US side," Grillo said. "And you see that they're quite basic, you know, shovel, get in there, and kind of dig through under the border quite basically."
    A man stands in a tunnel under the US-Mexico border that started in Tecate and ran into Southern California, December 4, 2007.

    Over the past 25 years, authorities have found 181 narco tunnels under the US-Mexican border, according to The New Yorker. Most of those have been short, narrow passages, or "gopher holes."
    Tools are seen in a tunnel under the US-Mexico border that ran from Tecate, Mexico into Southern California, December 4, 2007, after it was discovered by law-enforcement agencies.

    Narco tunnels have proliferated along the US-Mexico border, but it was the Sinaloa cartel that pioneered this method of subterranean smuggling, first in its area of influence along the Arizona border, expanding all along the frontier as the cartel grew in power.
    A Mexican soldier stands next to the entrance of a tunnel and packs of marijuana in Tijuana, November 3, 2010. US border police have found a sophisticated drug smugglers' tunnel the length of six football fields linking Southern California with Mexico and arrested two people, authorities said. Agents recovered more than 25 tonnes of marijuana in seizures related to the investigation in both California and Mexico and arrested a US citizen and his Mexican wife.

    The Sinaloa cartel, under Guzmán's direction, "basically was the impetus for building tunnels across into the United States," Vigil said. "They started to then put in ventilation. They started to put in lighting, railroad carts to facilitate the movement of drugs and actually illegal aliens through those tunnels, and they became much longer, and they started to riddle the Mexican border with a massive amount of tunnels."
    John Morton, left, director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), stands inside a warehouse near the Mexican border where a long tunnel was found in Otay Mesa, California, November 3, 2010. US border police have found a sophisticated smuggler's tunnel the length of six football fields linking Southern California with Mexico and believed to have been used by drug traffickers, authorities said. Agents also recovered more than 20 tons of marijuana during overnight searches of the tunnel, the border patrol said in a news release.

    The Sinaloa cartel's tunneling activity is heavily concentrated in the Tijuana area. Many of them have been found to stretch from Garita de Otay, an industrial area in the northern part of the city, to Otay Mesa, a neighborhood in San Diego that "consists of highways, strip malls, and a few hundred warehouses clustered near the border."
    A Mexican soldier flashes his torchlight inside a tunnel in Tijuana, November 3, 2010. US border police have found a sophisticated drug smugglers' tunnel the length of six football fields linking Southern California with Mexico and arrested two people, authorities said.

    Otay Mesa sits on a plateau that crosses the US-Mexico border. The ground there "is made of clay called bentonite that is self-supporting and as workable as wax."
    A Homeland Security agent enters a tunnel used to smuggle drugs between the US and Mexico in this photo released on October 31, 2013, by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE). The tunnel linked an industrial park in Otay Mesa, California, with Tijuana, Mexico, and featured both rail and ventilation systems.

    Cartel laborers dig down into this layer of clay, which is sturdier than normal soil and reduces the need for bracing and other infrastructure to shore up the passageway, Vigil told Business Insider.
    A view of the entrance to a tunnel under construction found by soldiers at a recycling plant at the Otay Mesa industrial park in Tijuana, July 12, 2012. The Mexican Army located the tunnel in this border, which would be used for smuggling drugs, weapons and persons into the United States, local media reported. The excavation, which is approximately 3 meters deep, 1.70 meters high, and 150 meters long, had ventilation and lighting. No detainees were reported

    "In Otay Mesa, the soil is soft enough to be dug by hand, yet firm enough so that the tunnel walls can often stand without wood or concrete reinforcement," Reel reported for The New Yorker.
    A tunnel connected to the Altiplano Federal Penitentiary and used by drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to escape is seen in Almoloya de Juarez, on the outskirts of Mexico City, July 15, 2015.

    Industrial activity, as well as the flow of people and cargo between Tijuana and San Diego, provides excellent cover for illegal activity. "The bottom line is, you can probably shoot a bullet in the air and it’ll land on a warehouse that’s doing something illegal in this area," Tim Durst, then the supervisor of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, told GQ in 2014.
    A military truck is parked outside a recycling plant where soldiers found a tunnel under construction at the Otay Mesa industrial park in Tijuana, July 12, 2012. The Mexican army located the tunnel in this border, which would be used for smuggling drugs, weapons and persons into the US, local media reported.

    The Sinaloa cartel developed its tunnel-building technique rapidly. Soon Guzmán's organization was constructing massive passages, hundreds of meters long, equipped with electricity, ventilation, and transport systems. "They've got skilled engineers making these, people who are qualified engineers, who will reinforce that tunnel, make it big, and have it so you bring actually rails on them, with trains, electric lights, air vents — very important, the air vents," Gillo told Business Insider.
    An agent from the San Diego Tunnel Task Force lowers himself into the passageway of a tunnel found under the US-Mexico border in San Diego, November 26, 2010. US border agents said they had found a half-mile-long tunnel under the US-Mexico border and seized a significant amount of marijuana at the San Diego area warehouse where it ends.

    One of the Sinaloa cartel's first tunneling gurus was Felipe de Jesus Corona-Verbera, who graduated from architecture school at the University of Guadalajara in 1980. Corona, who was close with Guzmán, was the driving force behind the cartel's first major tunnel, which connected Agua Prieta in Mexico with Douglas, Arizona.
    A makeshift cart with containers is seen at a suspected drug tunnel under construction during a media tour by Mexican Army in Tijuana, April 7, 2015. Mexican soldiers foiled the construction of a suspected drug tunnel underneath a house near the US border, arresting nine people and impounding a truck used to clear debris, the army said. Wired with lights, the tunnel was being built next to the Tijuana border crossing, south of San Diego, California, and near a Mexican air force installation as well as a regional federal police facility.

    The Agua Prieta-Douglas tunnel was a marvel, and it allowed the Sinaloa cartel to quickly expand its business — so quickly that the Colombians supplying them the cocaine started calling Guzmán "El Rapido."
    A journalist walks through a tunnel discovered by the Mexican Army, during a presentation to the media in Tijuana, Mexico August 2, 2015.

    The Sinaloa cartel later had another tunnel mastermind: Jose Sanchez-Villalobos.
    Packages containing marijuana are seen next to a tunnel found under the Mexico-US border in Tijuana, November 29, 2011. Police discovered the tunnel running to California from Mexico and seized packages containing marijuana. The tunnel measured around 800 meters from the Mexican border city of Tijuana to Otay Mesa industrial park south of San Diego, according to authorities.

    Villalobos was an adept manager who coordinated multiple tunnel projects while keeping a low profile. “Nothing I’ve ever seen criminally has worked as efficiently as it did when he was the boss,” an agent told The New Yorker.
















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