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San Diego-Tijuana drug tunnel bust, Prop. 19, and Latin America's drug war debate

US authorities this week found an 1,800-foot drug tunnel linking San Diego to Tijuana, and seized more than 25 tons of marijuana. Will it make a dent in the flow of drugs to the US?

By Matthew ClarkStaff Writer / November 4, 2010

John Morton (l.) the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement points to the opening of a 600-yard tunnel found in a warehouse where 20 tons of marijuana was seized as he talks with Joe Garcia, assistant agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, on Nov. 3, in San Diego.

Lenny Ignelzi/AP

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US authorities this week found an 1,800-foot drug tunnel linking San Diego to Tijuana, and in the process seized more than 25 tons of marijuana estimated to be worth some $20 million.

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Then, at the other end of the tunnel, Mexican soldiers on Wednesday seized about 4 tons of marijuana after raiding a warehouse, according to the Mexican military.

The discovery of the 4-by-3-foot tunnel points to the work of a major drug-running organization, authorities say.

"I can promise you there are some very unhappy people in the cartel," said John Morton, director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which leads the multi-agency San Diego Tunnel Task Force, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed there must be. Even though some 75 tunnels along the US-Mexico border have been found in the past few years, few have been fully operational as this one was.

Mr. Morton also trumpeted increased coordination with – and responsiveness from – Mexican authorities.

It’s been a good couple of weeks for them.

Late last month, Mexico seized 105 tons of marijuana in what Mexico's national security spokesman Alejandro Poire called “the largest seizure in the country's history of marijuana prepared and packed for sale and distribution.”

Will the seizures make a difference?

Although Mexican authorities trumpeted the seizure, the Monitor questioned whether such high-profile successes would make a dent in the overall flow of drugs from Mexico to the US.

“Weapons, cash, and drug seizures, as well as top arrests of drug traffickers, are always touted by the government as signs of success,” wrote the Monitor’s Latin America Bureau Chief, Sara Miller Llana. “While they are no doubt good news – and definitely give the government, normally battered by the ongoing violence in Mexico, a PR boost – they do little to impact the overall structure of criminal organizations, experts say."

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