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Tag: Mexico

Barr Struck Deal with Mexico to Release Ex-Defense Minister for Senior Cartel Leader

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, former Mexican defense minister.

By Steve Neavling

Mexican authorities agreed to arrest a senior cartel leader in exchange for Attorney General William Barr dismissing drug trafficking charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.

The deal, first reported by Reuters, sheds more light on an unusual decision that drew criticism from some in Congress and the State Department, as well as former DEA agents.

“Mexico committed to collaborate with the United States in the capture of a primary objective,” a source told Reuters

Daniel Millan, spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, responded, “what we agreed was to maintain a united front against crime and cooperation that respects the sovereignty of each country.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman denied both countries had a deal. 

Last week, multiple news outlets reported that Mexican officials were so incensed with the arrest of Cienfuegos that they threaten to remove the DEA from the country.

The unidentified cartel leader is suspected of trafficking large quantities of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that kills tens of thousands of Americans a year. 

Mexico Threatens to Remove DEA from Country After Arrest of Ex-Mexican Defense Minister

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, former Mexican defense minister.

By Steve Neavling

Mexican officials are so incensed with the arrest of a former Mexican defense minister on drug trafficking charges that they’ve threatened to remove the DEA from the country, The New York Times and Bloomberg report. 

The unprecedented threat follows the arrest of Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda. 

U.S. officials appeared to be listening, and on Wednesday a federal judge agreed to dismiss the charges against the former army general. The move came at the request of Attorney General William Barr. 

The reversal was criticized by officials in the State Department and Congress. 

“There is no explanation for Attorney General Barr’s decision to abruptly drop drug trafficking charges against General Cienfuegos,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said in a statement. “Cooperation with the Mexican government is essential for upholding our national security, and those bilateral ties must be built on common respect for our own rule of law and due process.”

Judge Carol B. Amon, of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, appeared to have no qualms about the turnabout.  

“Although these are very serious charges against a very significant figure, and the old adage ‘a bird in the hand’ comes to mind,” Amon said, “still I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the government’s decision.”

Border Patrol Makes Second-Largest Meth Bust Along Southwest Border

More than 3,100 pounds of meth were seized at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego.

By Steve Neavling

CBP officers made the second-largest methamphetamine bust ever along the Southwest border, seizing more than 3,100 pounds of the drug, along with 64 pounds heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and 37 pounds of pills. 

The drugs were found in a tractor-trailer on Oct. 9 at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego. 

A CBP officer ordered the driver of the truck to pull over for an inspection. Using the port’s imaging system, which is similar to an x-ray, CBP officers grew suspicious and sent the conveyance to a dock, where a canine alerted authorities to boxes inside the trailer. 

The drugs were co-mingled with medical supplies. 

The estimated value of the drugs is $7.2 million, CBP said.  

“Smugglers will try every way possible to try and get their product across the border and because of the partnership between CBP, Homeland Security investigations and DEA this significant seizure occurred and we stopped them,” Anne Maricich, acting CBP director of field operations in San Diego, said in a statement. “I’m proud of the CBP officers’ dedication to our mission; they continue to stop dangerous drugs from entering our communities.”

The driver, a 47-year-old Mexican resident, was arrested and turned over to ICE, Homeland Security Investigations and the DEA for further investigation. 

“This massive seizure is testament of what law enforcement agencies can do when we combine forces – prevent over $7 million worth of deadly drugs from entering our country; thus saving countless lives from addiction and overdose deaths,” DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery said. “DEA cherishes our great law enforcement partners in San Diego, especially those who work tirelessly to protect our nation’s borders.  We will continue to work together to disrupt drug trafficking organizations at every opportunity we are given.” 

Inside the truck where 3,100 pounds of meth were found.

Feds Find ‘Most Sophisticated Tunnel in U.S. History’ at Border with Mexico

Inside the unfinished tunnel, via ICE.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The discovery shocked federal agents: An unfinished tunnel that ran from San Louis, Ariz., to a Mexican neighborhood featured a ventilation system, electrical wiring, water lines, a rail system and extensive reinforcement.

“This appears to be the most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history, and certainly the most sophisticated I’ve seen in my career,” Carl E. Landrum, acting chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector, said, The Associated Press reports.

Discovered by Homeland Security Investigations in late July, officials believe it was intended for smuggling.

The tunnel was 3 feet wide and 4 feet high.

Excavation work on the tunnel, via ICE.

Car Crash That Killed 7 People in El Paso Was Involved in Human Smuggling

Border marker at San Ysidro Port of Entry, via Border Patrol.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The car crash that killed seven people in downtown El Paso on Thursday was involved in human smuggling.

The car was fleeing Border Patrol agents when it crashed into a trailer at 2:15 a.m.

Among those killed were at least three undocumented immigrants who were being smuggled into the U.S. and four El Paso residents, including the 18-year-old driver The Daily Mail reports.

A Mexican man and two unidentified people also were killed.

Among the injured were Mexico native Omar Garcia Hernandez, 18, Guatemalan national Wilbur Gomez, 25, and an unnamed 16-year-old from Mexico.

“All preliminary information collected thus far indicates that it was indeed a human smuggling event,” Chief Patrol Agent of the El Paso Sector Gloria Chavez said in a statement.

A sensor alerted agents to the four-door sedan in Sunland Park, New Mexico, an area near the border that is know for human smuggling.

The driver fled by accelerating at a high rate of speed. Agents called off the chase because of the dangerous speed.

Soon after, the agents spotted the car, which had crashed into a trailer on private property.

“I cannot stress enough how Transnational Criminal Organizations continue to exploit human beings and manipulate the youth in our communities by recruiting them to be their mules and their smugglers,” Chavez said.

“Human smuggling is as lucrative as drug smuggling, if not more, and our youth are being targeted.”

Border Patrol Asks Contractors: How Can We Stop People from Breaching the New Walls

An existing wall at border of Mexico. Photo via Congress.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

They built the walls, but they’re not working as planned.

Soldiers managed to destroy walls in San Diego. Smugglers are doing the same.

Now Border Patrol is asking contractors for ways to “leapfrog current technology to dramatically improve efficacy,” Arizona Public Media reports.

Could paint make it easier to see people breaching walls? What about sensors? They’re among the questions being barnstormed to make the walls more effective.

By the end of the year, the U.S. government has a goal of building 450 miles of walls. So far, it has built about 182 miles.

But the walls are being breached almost as quickly as they’re being built.

Border Patrol declined to comment.

Federal Agents Seize $30M Worth of Drugs in ‘Sophisticated’ Smuggling Tunnel

Drugs found inside a half-mile tunnel. Via ICE.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Federal agents seized thousands of pounds of drugs in a “sophisticated” smuggling tunnel that extends from a warehouse in Mexico to another warehouse in San Diego.

Inside the half-mile tunnel were 1,300 pounds of cocaine, 86 pounds of methamphetamine, 17 pounds of heroin, 3,000 pounds of marijuana and more than two pounds of fentanyl worth nearly $30 million, ICE announced in a news release.

The tunnel included reinforced walls, ventilation, lighting and an underground rail system.

“I’m proud of the excellent work performed by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents, as well as U.S. Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration agents as integrated partners of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force. Their tenacity made the difference in shutting down this tunnel,” said Cardell T. Morant, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Diego. “I hope this sends a clear message that despite the ongoing public health crisis, HSI and our law enforcement partners will remain resilient and continue to pursue criminal organizations responsible for the cross-border smuggling of narcotics into the United States.”

Coronavirus Fears Don’t Stop Construction of the Border Wall in Arizona

An existing wall at border of Mexico. Photo via Congress.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Construction on the wall on the Arizona border with Mexico has not stopped as the coronavirus outbreak spreads rapidly across the U.S.

Work crews are filling up motels, Airbnbs and mobile home camps in the town of Ajo, while nonessential construction has stopped in most of the country, The New York Times reports.

The theory is that the wall will prevent the spread of the virus from Mexico to the U.S., even though health experts are skeptical.

In the meantime, residents in Ajo are worried that the influx of workers make them more susceptive to the coronavirus.

“This administration’s priority is to get the wall done. The rest of us might as well be damned,” Ajo resident Maria Singleton told the Times.

According to an Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Raini Brunson, the agency is following “government and CDC guidelines” as construction increases.

“As the guidance changes, decisions will be made as to how contractor employees will be affected,” Brunson added.