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Cartels Are Using Firetruck-Sized Drillers To Make Drug Pipelines 323

Posted by Soulskill
from the looking-forward-to-their-space-rocket-deliveries dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "In the beginning, they used catapults, dune buggies, 'jalapeños,' $1 million submarines, and sophisticated drug tunnels to move drugs northward. Now, Mexican drug cartels are taking to high-end industrial drills to carve out literal drug pipelines into the U.S. It's the next big leap in the evolution of the narcos' ingenious smuggle tech. The future of borderland drug running, it turns out, is boring. Jason Kersten reports on the phenomenon in a great GQ feature that focuses on the Sinaloa Cartel, the international crime syndicate believed to be behind the first known narco pipeline in 2008: '...Mexican authorities, responding to reports of a cave-in and flooding near the [All-American] canal, discovered a tunnel unlike anything they'd ever seen. Only ten inches wide, it was essentially a pipe. The Mexican cops traced it back to a house about 600 feet from the border, where they found a tractor-like vehicle with a long barrel on its side—a horizontal directional drill, or HDD.'"
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Cartels Are Using Firetruck-Sized Drillers To Make Drug Pipelines

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  • And I thought the city was bad...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:24AM (#45895559)

    Just think about all US government agencies and their budgets on "war on drugs" They only exists as long drug cartel exist. Huge shipments of firearms from US side, drugs to US, hundreds of thousand jobs.
    They love each other.

    • Duh. Why do you think we can wage war against whoever has oil at the drop of a hat but can't find the slightest hint of an excuse to bomb countries with drugs back to the stone age?

    • by erikkemperman (252014) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:01AM (#45895697)

      Yes, which is why the reverse is equally true: the cartels will only exist as long as the war on drugs exists.

      You've got to wonder why the folks on the right who care so deeply about individual freedom of choice and despise government intrusion in personal affairs are such big fans of the war on drugs.

      If it were about protecting the people from harm (which drugs can undoubtedly do to its users) or about reducing crime, the exact opposite approach would make much more sense.

      I believe there might be a hint in the fact that sentencing in cases involving cheap drugs is so much harsher than cases involving expensive drugs.

      Combined with the infamous two-tier justice system, and the various ways in which ex-convicts are reduced to subhuman status well after they formally did their time, it is effectively a war on the poor, and their vote.

      • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:28AM (#45895781)

        Because the group referred to as 'the right' actually consists of several contradicting ideologies forced together by the nature of the US political system. While they do hold to the principle of small government and individual freedom, these are not their highest priority goals and so will be ignored when a seemingly more important idea is in contradiction. This happens quite often, as the political conservative and social conservative factions are fundamentally conflicted - they'd be at war with each other if they hadn't found a common enemy in the liberals.

        • by Sique (173459)
          But even in countries where the conservative right is not so much about small government, they are resolutely pro war-on-drugs.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's worth noting that "the liberals" are more or less the same way. The game theory behind the U.S. political system more-or-less mandates a maximum of two viable parties, so each has an ideology that is moderately incoherent and is frequently defined in terms of opposition to whatever the other guys are doing.

          Further, there's a neat psychological phenomenon (that I forget the name for) where people who identify with one party because of their views on one issue will gradually pick up that party's views on

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You've got to wonder why the folks on the right who care so deeply about individual freedom of choice and despise government intrusion in personal affairs are such big fans of the war on drugs.

        Religion hates competition, if you can get peace from a plant you don't need church. So the preachers preach against it in spite of Genesis 1:12 and the various other positive cannabis references in the bible, like the recipe for anointing oil. The end!

      • ou've got to wonder why the folks on the right who care so deeply about individual freedom of choice and despise government intrusion in personal affairs are such big fans of the war on drugs.

        Because drug use has such detrimental effects on society. Witness the issues with meth [king5.com], squatters taking over people's homes [local10.com], general neglect of both property and person [pottsmerc.com]. Perhaps the judge in this case [phillyburbs.com] summed it up best:

        âoeYou liked drugs. For that, your children suffered. They suffered terribly.â
      • by HBI (604924) <kparadine AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @11:01AM (#45897583) Homepage Journal

        It appears no one has answered this question, so I will. Why are people on the right so resolutely anti-drug?

        If you spent your whole life working - regardless of the delivered value to society - the idea of paying an able-bodied person's way in life is antithetical. Those on the right perceive drugs as a certain way to turn an able-bodied person into someone who requires social welfare. No one on the right trusts the individual to make logical choices in the presence in the corrupting influence of a mind-altering drug. They correctly identify the number of people who would remain productive members of society while consuming drugs as very small.

        Legalizing drugs would amount to at least removing society's disfavor from the consumption of same. The right expects that an ever-increasing crop of wastrels who do not work will be the result, increasing their tax burden and further damaging the perception that work is the correct pathway to life success. To the right, there is no upside to legalization.

        Wresting alcohol and marijuana from this perception goes far to explain why blue laws are still prevalent in many areas and that the first commercial legalization of marijuana happened this year.

        • by erikkemperman (252014) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:01PM (#45898171)

          Thanks for taking the time, it is certainly a very considered and eloquent piece.

          There are many countries where substance abusers are considered similar to alcoholics, which is to say as having a condition (a complex of psychological and physiological factors) which one can hope to alleviate by professional, targeted treatment -- instead of locking them up together with actual criminals (I mean the kind that leave victims).

          I live in one such country, the Netherlands, and while it is of course only a single anecdotal observation, I don't believe we have a noticeably larger fraction of our population on welfare due to drug-use than the US, or any other tough-on-drugs nation I am aware of. We do however have a whole lot less people in jail, per capita.

          I'm not sure how widely this fact is known, but the US rather stands out when it comes to incarceration. With 5% of the world population, it holds 25% of the world's prisoners.

        • They correctly identify the number of people who would remain productive members of society while consuming drugs as very small.

          Right, there are very few productive people that drink alcohol in the US. Very small group indeed.

    • by swb (14022) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @07:42AM (#45896429)

      My neighbor is a cop and a pretty conservative guy.

      I've been on ride-a-longs with him and one thing that surprised me was the amount of "paperwork" (which is really just database entry, not actual paper) associated with pretty much any call. We went to a house that was under renovation that had been broken into. Lockbox smashed and door opened. As it happens, the house was nearly done and they had just finished doing the hardwood floors -- the place was EMPTY, no tools, nothing at all to steal. The only thing that had happened was the breaking and entering. We were at the house and talked to the owner for maybe 10 minutes. We were at the precinct entering data for nearly an HOUR!

      I asked him what he does when he finds pot on someone. He said mostly nothing if its a small amount -- dump it on the ground and grind it up with this boot -- "You saw how much paperwork there is. If wrote every guy up with pot, I'd catch hell from my supervisor because I wouldn't be taking enough other calls."

      But, I suspect that despite that street cops don't want to or can't arrest everyone, cops generally LIKE that pot is illegal because it gives them a LEVER. A tool to use against people to justify stopping them and searching them. Look at Stop and Frisk in NYC -- so many arrests there are from stopping someone, making them dump their pockets and then arresting them for public display of marijuana.

      The DEA and the like organizationally don't like legalization because it undercuts their bureaucracy, but they really don't like the loss of authority.

      • by LoRdTAW (99712) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @09:24AM (#45896887)

        I was talking to my cop friend a month or so ago and he said the same thing: "No one wants pot to be legal more than us cops. We have better things to do. We really cant voice our opinions about it because as cops, we have a duty to enforce the laws. It's taboo for us as protesting the laws we are supposed to enforce. It's looked at as unprofessional by our superiors." Those aren't his exact words but it sums up what he said. Basically they have better things to do than arrest or fine a kid for a bag of weed. They simply destroy the bag and tell them to take a hike. The intoxicated trouble makers are mostly drunks who get into fights or car accidents. Its a bit ironic that the legal substance (alcohol) is responsible for more deaths and violence than the illegal substances.

      • Capricious enforcement of the law is a good indicator of a corrupt system.

        We need ED-209.
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:25AM (#45895561) Homepage Journal

    Free market finds a way. Where gov't erects legal barriers, free market becomes black market. Gov't has no business in drugs ( and almost anything except national security actually). Declaring drugs illegal is destroying individual freedoms and distorting markets and creating criminals. The real problem is gov't, not criminals that gov't creates.

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @04:38AM (#45895815) Journal

      Free market finds a way. Where gov't erects legal barriers, free market becomes black market.

      You are right, but if the 'free market' were an argument for making something legal, then we should make assassinations and corporations that dump poison into rivers legal, because they are going to anyway.

      • by bentcd (690786) <bcd@pvv.org> on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @05:15AM (#45895919) Homepage

        You are right, but if the 'free market' were an argument for making something legal, then we should make assassinations and corporations that dump poison into rivers legal, because they are going to anyway.

        Well, the free market is an argument for legalization, but only with qualifications. Essentially, if the free market for a given good or service is or would be big enough then this alone is a very strong argument for legalizing it. The reasoning behind this is that first of all, if a lot of citizens want to trade in it then it is a democratic problem if they are prevented from doing so; secondly, that with such a big market even if you outlaw it the trade is still going to happen at large scale so what are you really achieving; and thirdly, that a lot of money that would otherwise move around the economy in a proper manner is now going to get funneled into a black economy where it will see less circulation (thus having a stagnating effect on the economy overall), will not be properly taxable, and will tend to leak into other more serious criminal enterprises. Also as we have seen with drugs, criminalizing what many see as a necessary good has led to the blatant militarization of police forces and erosion of civil rights for everyone. This is a very high price to pay for feelgood politics.

        Of course this would only be one of the arguments in any given debate but it would be a weighty one.

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          a lot of money that would otherwise move around the economy in a proper manner is now going to get funneled into a black economy where it will see less circulation (thus having a stagnating effect on the economy overall), will not be properly taxable, and will tend to leak into other more serious criminal enterprises.

          You forgot one: "go across the border into another country, deflating the entire economy".

      • by gweihir (88907)

        I think you just gave the solution: Assassinate those that dump poison into the river. Hell, public utilities producing potable water from said river may put up a preventive bounty against any polluters, as they drive up their costs.

        No, I do not really want to try that. But putting a price on everybodies life (the same for everybody, obviously) may solve a host of problems. Say, for 1 Million paid to some arbitration body, anybody can buy an assassination permission. In order to prevent massive disruption,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Procrasti (459372)

        > You are right, but if the 'free market' were an argument for making something legal, then we should make assassinations and corporations that dump poison into rivers legal, because they are going to anyway.

        These are not examples of free market because participants in the transaction do not choose the transaction. The assassination victim does not to choose to be assassinated, and people who enjoy the rivers did not choose for them to be poisoned. These are called negative externalities, and a free mark

      • The problem with assassinations and polluting rivers is that those acts affect other people detrimentally, so ultimately those acts would still get punished through lots of lawsuits.

        Drugs, however, don't usually affect other people directly (most side effect are due to them being illegal which begs the question of why are they illegal?).
      • by dj245 (732906)

        Free market finds a way. Where gov't erects legal barriers, free market becomes black market.

        You are right, but if the 'free market' were an argument for making something legal, then we should make assassinations and corporations that dump poison into rivers legal, because they are going to anyway.

        A terrible argument. Marijuana is basically harmless, yet it is outlawed. The drug makes you relaxed and the user watches movies or listens to music, usually in their own home or a friend's home. I have never heard of other crimes such as breaking and entering, theft, violence (unrelated to black markets), or robbery as a result of a user's pot habit. At worst, it could be argued that it makes a person lazy. There are plenty of lazy people in the world though, and we don't light fires under them for th

  • by purpledinoz (573045) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:43AM (#45895611)
    It's a losing battle trying to fight the forces of economics. The Prohibition was basically a gift for the criminals and gangs to make easy money. We're seeing the same thing here. Why is weed illegal anyway? It's arguably just as harmful as alcohol and tobacco. I'm certain that Colorado an Washington won't crumble into anarchy as a result of legalization.
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:56AM (#45895671)

      It's just heaps more difficult to produce high quality booze or cigs. If people can get plastered on drugs they can grow at home at the same quality that you could sell them... that's just so un-American!

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        It's just heaps more difficult to produce high quality booze or cigs.

        It is? Why don't you come up to Canada and ask the natives how they're doing at it. Not only that two of the biggest things that they're involved with and in, is the legal manufacture of high-quality cig's, and the illegal distribution of them to the US.

      • Depends how you define 'high quality.' Moonshine is a long-established tradition.

        • Depending on the strain you're growing you can have "Best in the world" quality pot in a few months just by planting a seed outside and leaving it alone. Brewing moonshine is a hell of a lot of work. It takes less time to produce maybe, but you get less of it, it takes a large initial investment in equipment and if you do it wrong the product can kill you. If you do pot wrong, you just get a lower yield.

          That's what I find the most funny about legalization efforts. They think there's going to be this huge ta

          • by msauve (701917) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @08:32AM (#45896635)
            "Most people aren't going to be able to smoke as much as a single plant can produce in a year... why would they ever buy it?"

            Same reason people buy vegetables from the store and hamburgers from McDonalds. Convenience.
          • by g4sy (694060)
            I used to think the same, but unless one can sell their backyard grown product to their neighbor (legally), then it's all just a rouse. Think about tobacco. I can grow it legally, at about the same difficulty level as pot. But I can't sell it to my neighbor. I don't even think I'm allowed to give it away. This has nothing to do with human rights or constitutional freedoms: it's because there's a lot of money to be made in taxing packs of cigarettes.

            TL;DR: Selling or giving away your backyard pot will be m
      • by Sique (173459)
        Actually, it's quite easy to produce high quality booze or cigarettes. The uncle of my mother used to grow tabacco and ferment it. My father was distilling a quite good cherry schnaps just for fun once (made from our own cherries). It's something each somewhat dedicated amateur will master.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        It's just heaps more difficult to produce high quality booze or cigs. If people can get plastered on drugs they can grow at home at the same quality that you could sell them

        You'd be surprised at how many people can't grow a decent tomato.

      • Efficiencies of scale, and specialization, mean that most people prefer to buy products from a competitive marketplace rather than produce their own.

        For example: You can grow tomatoes in your backyard, but most people prefer to get them from the store, even in growing season. Despite the fact that home-grown tomatoes are fresher and better tasting!

        The same would be true of marijuana.

    • by khasim (1285)

      I think that the laws around the "recreational" drugs were mostly racially inspired. Or at the very least they have been racially prosecuted.

      I'm in Seattle. I like that we've started addressing this. I think we need to go further though. And I don't think that this will have any effect on us other than bringing in some more tax dollars.

      If the average person can handle alcohol (beer and wine sold all over) then why wouldn't that person be able to handle cannabis?

      • by fatphil (181876)
        I know that in the UK, the drugs laws were basically created by some members of the rich educated elite in order to ensure that they remained that. In particular, the doctors. Given the pretty dumb state of real medicine back then (late victorian IIRC), as soon as they lose their grip on the control of narcotics and the like, they're out of a job, as everyone would self-medicate. You'll notice that everything that was made an illegal drug was actually a prescription drug, the ambiguity in that four-letter w
      • by CCarrot (1562079)

        If the average person can handle alcohol (beer and wine sold all over) then why wouldn't that person be able to handle cannabis?

        I suspect it's the lack of a quick and reliable roadside test for intoxication levels, such as the breathalyzer is for alcohol. If such a similar portable, quick, reliable, non-invasive method of detecting whether someone is high at this exact moment were to be developed, I think the last few objections to legalization would quickly crumble.

        Alas, THC lingers in the bloodstream long after the intoxicating effects have faded, unlike alcohol.

    • no way in hell with those running it ever give up the billions they get and the powet the get.

    • by kimvette (919543) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @09:11AM (#45896823) Homepage Journal

      > Why is weed illegal anyway? It's arguably just as harmful as alcohol and tobacco.

      It is nowhere near as harmful as either. Does Tobacco show promise as a cancer-fighting, epilepsy-siezure-preventing drug, stress reducing, migraine treating, cluster headache killing, sinus and bronchial congestion reducing, muscle cramp reducing, eating disorder treating, antiemetic, appetite correcting, MS tremor reducing, parkinsons, glaucoma-treating, inflammation-reducing, pain reducing, mood lifting and NOT PHSYSICALLY ADDICTIVE (and can actually be used to treat addicts coming off harmful addictive drugs!!!) drug that is impossible to overdose on? (okay you can theoretically OD on it if you combust many pounds of it over the period of an hour or two - just like you can "OD" on water) Does Alcohol show any promise? Hmm, perhaps then you should not use the word "harmful" anywhere near any word specifying cannabis nor compare it to harmful drugs.

      As far as the few potential effects may be concerned? The mental "high" can be avoided by either choosing a low-THC, high-CBD strain or by selecting a method of delivery which limits the release of THC. Tar? Not really tar but there are resins, and those can be avoided by vaporizing it, making extracts, infused oil for cooking, adding it to salad dressings, baking it into cookies, brownies, etc. and avoiding combustion, CO2 and CO exposure. Short-term memory loss? Sure the effect is real, but it is temporary and limited (only while high) for all but chronic users.

      There is no miracle drug, but Cannabis may very well be the next closest thing.

      • > Why is weed illegal anyway? It's arguably just as harmful as alcohol and tobacco.

        It is nowhere near as harmful as either. Does Tobacco show promise as [a whole laundry list of things]

        No, tobacco doesn't. But on the other hand "show[s] promise as" is not the same as "actually does these things".

        NOT PHSYSICALLY ADDICTIVE

        A drum often beaten by those on the pro-cannabis side, conveniently forgetting that physical addiction is not the only form of addiction.

        There is no miracle drug, but Can

  • Decriminalize (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dutch Gun (899105) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:45AM (#45895625)

    The sooner we decriminalize drugs, the sooner this sort of idiotic "war on drugs" can end. It's one that the US law enforcement can never win, which is the perfect sort of war for a government agency, isn't it? I'm not saying there aren't well-meaning people in those agencies, or among those that advocate such policies, but it's those same well-meaning policies that also gave us the mob during the Prohibition era. Same dance, different partners.

    BTW, we recently decriminalized weed here in Washington State, and now people are setting up shops to sell the stuff. I'm betting the world won't come to an end.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Decriminalization isn't good enough; they need to be legalized.

    • Re:Decriminalize (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:51AM (#45895637)

      It's a sign of movement in the right direction, but unfortunately Washington's law, as it currently stands, doesn't really target this problem. The only thing that was legalized in WA is possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Possession of larger quantities, not to mention growing or sale of any quantity, is still illegal. With consumer-level possession legal but production, distribution, and sale illegal, that doesn't really do much to harm the drug smugglers' business. To undercut the Mexican smugglers, we have to make it legal to grow and sell domestically, so there is no reason to import it from Mexico.

      • by khasim (1285)

        Our government (Seattle & Olympia) is working on that.

        I live on Beacon Hill (south Seattle) and at the foot of the hill there are at least a couple of "medical" dispensaries every mile. Probably "co-ops" where they grow their own. So they don't seem to be importing from the smugglers.

        I wish we had been a bit smarter when we did this but even with the mistakes it is a HUGE step forward.

        But I think the biggest problem was trying to anticipate what the Federal government would do. And what they still might

      • Even if some states were willing to go that far, that just means the FBI would take over prosecuting people.

        If they can take some time away from protecting 'national security,' that is. I'm sure they can reallocate a few agents from investigating murders and such to focus on real crime.

      • The only thing that was legalized in WA is possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Possession of larger quantities, not to mention growing or sale of any quantity, is still illegal. With consumer-level possession legal but production, distribution, and sale illegal, that doesn't really do much to harm the drug smugglers' business.

        If production, distribution, and sales are illegal - why is the state in the process of issuing licenses to do those very things? The answer of course is, you haven't a clue wh

  • I guess that people like a 'buzz' and as long as there is demand there is a suplier willing to take riscs to deliver.
    Its basically the whole 'prohibition era' all over again with some new tech.
    So keep fighting it guys! We all know what the end result will be!
  • by CaptQuark (2706165) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @03:58AM (#45895681)
    So, was there a second pipeline for all the cash to flow back into Mexico?

    You wouldn't want to interrupt the flow of drugs for something as inconsequential as cash.

    ~~
    • So, was there a second pipeline for all the cash to flow back into Mexico?

      Yes. HSBC. [rollingstone.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And man am I stoned - LEGALLY stoned mofos! I am expecting a call from Obama telling me I am under arrest just because I eat to the beat!

  • Reuters coverage in 2011. [reuters.com] Congressional testimony from 2011 [senate.gov] describes a 13,000 foot tunnel.

    Trenchless technology marches on. Microtunneling is getting easier. This gear is normally used to avoid digging up streets.

  • ...and a house close to Apple HQ.
  • ...you hide the drugs in regular fruit shipments, dispense with the costly and annoying consumer distribution system and let the local discounter [bbc.co.uk] handle it. :-)
  • I'm wondering whether, once the War On Drugs is over (and legalisation/harm-minimisation is likely to do to the cartels what the end of prohibition did to bootleg distillers in the US), one of the results will be places like Colombia and Mexico having highly competent engineering industries directly traceable to the need to build drug-smuggling submarines and tunnel boring machines. Perhaps in a few decades' time, a city somewhere in North America will start building a subway and, instead of Germany or Japa

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Perhaps in a few decades' time, a city somewhere in North America will start building a subway and, instead of Germany or Japan, will go to Mexico for the boring machines?

      Well, no. Mexico isn't building the machines. They might well hire a Mexican operator to drive the machine, however, since he'll have the practical experience.

      It's a good thing Mexico isn't building the machines, either. Compare Mexican-built VW Golf to German-built.

  • we illegally funded drug cartels through two presidencies to back insurgencies in countless south american and central american countries which then proceeded to use terrorism to destroy hospitals, schools and police stations in an epidemic of violence designed to hijack the democratic process and install pro-america dictators.

    these drug trades are directly empowered today by a failed american drug policy designed to incarcerate minorities for petty drug convictions and generate a permanent, unspoken un
  • Finally package delivery through a pneumatic tube system takes off! And we have years to perfect it before the year 3000 when everyone will be to lazy to walk across town and just take the tube.
  • Legalize drugs, and the corporate world will take over growing and transporting them.

    Regulate and tax them like they already do Alcohol and Tobacco

    Real simple and will save a ton of wasted money on drug laws and bring in a metric Shit-TON on money in taxes.

  • I know of no firetruck that can fit into a ten inch tunnel.

Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. -- N. Alexander.

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