Gives new meaning to “underground economy.” The Globe and Mail writes:
When architect Felipe de Jesus Corona built Mexico’s most powerful drug lord a 200-foot-long tunnel under the U.S.-Mexican border with a hydraulic lift entrance opened by a fake water tap, the kingpin was impressed. The architect “made me one [expletive] cool tunnel” Joaquin (Shorty) Guzman said, according to court testimony that helped sentence Mr. Corona to 18 years in prison in 2006.
Built below a pool table in his lawyer’s home, the tunnel was among the first of an increasingly sophisticated drug transport system used by Mr. Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel. U.S. customs agents seized more than 2,000 pounds of cocaine that had allegedly been smuggled along the underground route.
In the past five years, a crackdown on drug smugglers in Mexico and tighter U.S. border security above ground has led to a dramatic increase in the use, and the sophistication, of tunnels under the border.
There have been more than 100 tunnels discovered during President Felipe Calderon’s five years in office, double the number found over the previous 15 years. Officials suspect most recently found tunnels belong to the Sinaloa cartel, which has been perfecting its technique for two decades using specialized technology and a cadre of trained builders.
That tunnel, replete with a hydraulically controlled steel door, elevator and electric rail tracks, was built by the Sinaloa cartel, which controls the California-Mexico border area where the bulk of subterranean passages are, he said.
To burrow deep and long – one tunnel stretched four kilometres – smugglers employ powerful machinery, some of which can bore a small hole deep in the soil and create a walled shaft without having to send anyone below ground. “It’s super fast, it’s really actually scary,” said Tim Durst, assistant special agent in charge of ICE’s San Diego office. “You can have a tunnel done in a couple of weeks.”
The drilling equipment costs between $50,000 and $75,000, and officials say they have no way to stop cartels from obtaining the high-powered gear.