I came across an excellent article in the New York Times today that goes in detail into the inner workings of drug cartels in Mexico – specifically that of the Sinaloa Cartel. This has been a rather hot topic of discussion in the US – the largest consumer of illegal drugs in the world, given its repercussions on the internal law and order situation in Mexico and its subsequent effects on the US. In fact, in recent years, successive Mexican presidents have made the abolishing of these cartels part of their election agendas, although it remains to be seen how effective they will be.
In any case, one particular passage caught my eye. This speaks of El Chapo’s (Joaquín Guzmán, the CEO of the Sinaloa Cartel) cartel and its level of sophistication when it comes to innovative means of transporting drugs between two points on the globe,
At first, Chapo’s organization controlled a single smuggling route, through western Mexico into Arizona. But by 1990, it was moving three tons of cocaine each month over the border, and from there, to Los Angeles. The Sinaloa has always distinguished itself by the eclectic means it uses to transport drugs. Working with Colombian suppliers, cartel operatives moved cocaine into Mexico in small private aircraft and in baggage smuggled on commercial flights and eventually on their own 747s, which they could load with as much as 13 tons of cocaine. They used container ships and fishing vessels and go-fast boats and submarines — crude semi-submersibles at first, then fully submersible subs, conceived by engineers and constructed under the canopy of the Amazon, then floated downriver in pieces and assembled at the coastline. These vessels can cost more than a million dollars, but to the smugglers, they are effectively disposable. In the event of an interception by the Coast Guard, someone onboard pulls a lever that floods the interior so that the evidence sinks; only the crew is left bobbing in the water, waiting to be picked up by the authorities.
My perspective of these cartels used to be one shaped by having seen hollywood movies set in South America, and from a book that chronicled Pablo Escobar’s life. Well, that got shaken up today.
With revenues rivaling Facebook or Netflix, a logistics network on the scale of Amazon or UPS, and technical sophistication in manufacturing submersible craft that rivals a small country’s – I wonder whether it will ever be possible for unorganized politicians under the duress of election agendas, lobbying and caucuses to ever effectively address this growing menace?