Traffickers at El Chapo trial say drugs aren’t coming into the US through open parts of the border

Some cartel associates have testified about utilizing underground tunnels. But none have explained they have transported prescription drugs into the United States at unwalled sections of the border.

The testimony comes at a time when President Donald Trump’s thrust for a border wall incorporates arguments that it would support halt the stream of medicine into the United States.

Trump tweeted Friday that without having a metal barrier or wall along the US-Mexico border, “our Nation can’t be safe. Criminals, Gangs, Human Traffickers, Medications & so substantially other major difficulties can easily pour in. It can be stopped cold!”

US Border Patrol seized virtually 480,000 pounds of narcotics at the US-Mexico border concerning authorized ports of entry all through fiscal calendar year 2018, stated Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman. But the office has not delivered details about the quantity of medications seized by authorities at lawful border crossings.

A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Company, Mary Brandenberger, stated she was unable to present additional particulars for the reason that of the lapse in governing administration funding in the course of the partial shutdown.

From tunnels to legal ports of entry

In Guzman’s situation, the government’s personal witnesses — quite a few of them previous Mexican cartel associates — testified that following the authorities cracked down on smuggling tunnels, they started relying on authorized ports of entry to bring medication into the nation.

Previous large-rating Sinaloa cartel leader Jesus Zambada Garcia testified about Guzman’s use of tunnels in the early 1990s to rapidly smuggle medicines these types of as cocaine into the United States, earning him the nickname “El Rapido,” or “The Quickly A person.”

“(A tunnel) is the most protected way to cross medication to the US — the easiest way to cross over weapons,” Zambada Garcia testified.

Zambada Garcia was arrested in Mexico Town in 2008 and extradited to the United States, wherever he pleaded guilty to importing, distributing and advertising cocaine and belonging to a continuing felony company. He has not been sentenced but could facial area between 10 decades and lifetime in jail.

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Fast Facts

He stated that in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 95% of cocaine was brought into the United States by a tunnel beneath Arizona’s border with Mexico. But as regulation enforcement began getting and closing tunnels, cartel management directed drugs to flow into the United States in other approaches.

Tractor-trailers were, and proceed to be, a preferred method of smuggling in narcotics. Some vans are equipped with a “double base” that has hidden compartments. Many others are loaded with goods, these kinds of as large cans of chilis, that comprise sand surrounding a specifically built, cylindrical brick of cocaine. If shaken by authorities, the sand tends to make the cans audio like chilis are transferring about inside of. From about 1990 to 1993, just about 30 tons of cocaine ended up smuggled into the United States employing this process, Zambada Garcia mentioned.

Zambada Garcia’s nephew, Vicente Zambada, testified that medications were being typically placed in “clavos” — hidden compartments in cars and trucks — and driven across the border by lawful ports of entry. The young Zambada was the moment groomed to acquire in excess of the Sinaloa cartel by his father, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who labored alongside Guzman.

Vicente Zambada pleaded responsible to drug trafficking rates and is now incarcerated in the United States.

“Mexican households had been employed to push cars and trucks with mystery compartments throughout the border at Juarez, from time to time three or 4 occasions a day,” he reported.

There was also a time when Sinaloa associates despatched drugs into the United States on trains.

Tirso Martinez Sanchez testified in December that among 2000 and 2003, he was able to smuggle in 30 to 50 tons of cocaine by welding false compartments into the ends of oil tanker cars. Martinez testified that he and his associates vacuum-sealed cocaine in bags, wrapped them in plastic and rubbed them with mechanic’s grease to throw off drug-sniffing pet dogs.

Martinez Sanchez was arrested in February 2014 and extradited to the United States in December 2015. The following calendar year he pleaded responsible to drug trafficking fees immediately after achieving a cooperation agreement with the govt.

Below the cooperation arrangement, the federal government will submit a sentencing letter to the decide and help Martinez Sanchez protected an S visa, a eco-friendly card issued to witnesses and informants who have assisted law enforcement. He is at present beneath protective custody and faces a bare minimum of 10 a long time to daily life in jail.

Despite pledge, Trump's wall can't keep out all illegal drugs

One more strategy that witnesses testified to utilizing included fishing boats and other vessels. In actuality, Guzman himself is thought to have been intercepted sending messages to a girl, inquiring her to discover somebody “inclined to go fishing,” or, meet a ship filled with medications hundreds of miles off the coastline of the US, and carry the drugs back to shore in a fishing boat.

Additional just lately, cartels have created “semi-submersibles” — vessels that seem like submarines, but skim the area of drinking water to avoid detection by the US Coast Guard and other authorities that work to interdict medications in the ocean.

El Chapo on demo

Guzman led the infamous Sinaloa cartel, described by the US Justice Division as 1 of the world’s most violent and highly effective drug cartels. He repeatedly broke out of prison until he was recaptured in January 2016.

Guzman was extradited to the United States and pleaded not responsible to 17 federal prices that consist of leading a continuing criminal business, firearm violations associated to drug trafficking and dollars laundering.

His trial commenced in November in a New York federal district court docket below unprecedented weighty protection.

Smuggling drugs by way of legal ports of entry is risky business enterprise. But cartels aimed to curtail their losses by sending by means of substantial more than enough portions that even if some had been seized, other people would nonetheless make it as a result of.

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This attitude was shared in court by former Colombian cartel head Juan Carlos “La Chupeta” Ramirez, who worked with Guzman in the early 1990s and is now in US jail.

Ramirez’s cartel would expand, process and send shipments of cocaine to Mexico by airplane. Guzman’s occupation was to have the prescription drugs smuggled into the United States.

At the time Guzman perfected his methods of smuggling prescription drugs into the United States rapidly, by way of a selection of solutions, Ramirez claimed, he couldn’t get sufficient.

“He explained to me to send him as a lot of planes as I could.”

Ramirez is in jail in the United States for drug trafficking. He entered a responsible plea and achieved a cooperation settlement.

As component of Ramirez’s extradition settlement with Brazil, where by he was captured, he is to provide no extra than 30 decades. But if govt lawyers are pleased with Ramirez’s cooperation, they can decide to write a letter to a sentencing judge that could assist Ramirez receive less time — even though his cooperation agreement stipulates he might not provide considerably less than 25 years.

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