Creative smuggling: We build a fence, they fly over it

Posted by: Phineas on April 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm

**Posted by Phineas

Cartel smugglers may be walking pustules who profit by selling poison and wreak havoc on their own nation(1), but give hem credit for adaptability: Border-control advocates have been screaming for years about building a fence along the Mexican border? Fine The drug-smugglers will just find another way across — or over:

The visiting British pilots were training near a naval air station one night this month when their helicopter came within about 150 feet of an ultralight plane flying without lights. The ultralight darted away toward Mexico without a trace.

The near-disaster over the Southern California desert was an example of drug smugglers using low-flying aircraft that look like motorized hang gliders to circumvent new fences along the U.S. border with Mexico. The planes, which began appearing in Arizona three years ago, are now turning up in remote parts of California and New Mexico.

And in a new twist, the planes rarely touch the ground. Pilots simply pull levers that drop aluminum bins filled with about 200 pounds of marijuana for drivers who are waiting on the ground with blinking lights or glow-sticks. Within a few minutes, the pilots are back in Mexico.

“It’s like dropping a bomb from an aircraft,” said Jeffrey Calhoon, chief of the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector, which stretches through alfalfa farms, desert scrub and sand dunes in southeast California.

The Border Patrol has erected hundreds of miles of fences and vehicle barriers along the border and added thousands of new agents, so drug smugglers are going over, under and around.

I particularly like the “bombing run” aspect.

While the use of ultra-lights is perhaps the most unusual development in the chess match along the border, it’s not the only one: cartel smugglers also use tunnels under the border and boats on the Pacific coast to go around it.

In one sense, it’s an illustration of markets in action: with demand so high in the US, the cartels are going to do their darnedest to make sure they get their goods to the buyers.

Move and counter, thrust and parry.

AFTERTHOUGHT: If drugs are being passed over the border via ultralight, what —or who— else is making it across?


(1) In fact, that’s just what they are.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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4 Responses to “Creative smuggling: We build a fence, they fly over it”


  1. Drew says:

    Border? What border?

  2. Sean A says:

    Actually, there’s one more method Mexican drug smugglers are using that you left out (I only heard about it in one isolated news piece a few months ago), and it’s a truly sad (but a little bit hilarious) commentary on the worthlessness of this Administration and DHS/Napolitano when it comes to border enforcement.

    CATAPULTS! Seriously. Catapults.

    So, basically, it’s official. US border enforcement/security is so non-existent, drug smugglers are now treating the US/Mexico border as one of the easier levels in a whimsical Donkey Kong game come-to-life.

    You just have to laugh to keep from crying.

  3. Carlos says:

    Why does any of this matter? If this (or any other, like GW’s) administration is not serious about keeping terrorist organizations (like al Qaida or M-13) out of the country, there will never be a border.

    In which case Mexico has already won.

    In which case, we can all enjoy the wonders of their society, like graft, corruption, baby raping, mass murder and Cinco de Mayo.

    Oh, and don’t forget driving drunk without a license or insurance.

  4. captaingrumpy says:

    Hell,I would dust off the AA and have a few shots. Nearly as good as playing “call of duty”.