US

Mexico Scorches 13-Square-Mile Marijuana Plantation

By Victor Westerkamp

Mexican Federal police have discovered an enormous marijuana plantation just south of San Diego, 6 miles over the Mexican border in the state and El Centro, and set it on fire.

Border Patrol officials out of San Diego, California, estimated the 70,000 pounds had a street value of $277 million and they believe they were produced to flood the U.S. market, Customs and Border Protection said in a statement issued late Friday.

The catch of the grow site, located just north of Tijuana city, and six miles south of the international border in La Rumorosa, Baja California, resulted from an intensive exchange of strategies between U.S. officials and Mexican federal police between April and May. U.S. officials also recently gave the Mexican federal police equipment.

An extensive training program was held at a binational academy for Mexican officials by agents from the San Diego and El Centro regions and comprised of several new tactics on how to gather intelligence, navigate unmapped areas, and the use of Global Positioning System devices.

Mexican federal police had spotted part of the site on June 6, but couldn’t tell how big it was and had no way accessing the area due to a lack of infrastructure in the region. On Tuesday, they returned with four-wheel drive vehicles and trucks and scorched the site.

“This undoubtedly fosters a safer and more secure border environment that advances our goal to dismantle and defeat the transnational criminal organizations that threaten the safety of our country,” said the CBP.

Getting a Real Picture

Five years ago, Border Patrol had no idea how much cross-border traffic was coming through. That changed when seven aerostat balloons started recording real-time incursions in south Texas.

One of the bigger aerostats, nicknamed “Big Bertha,” is situated six miles from the border on La Anacua Ranch and started surveilling on July 31, 2014. It has two cameras that can see up to 20 miles in any direction on a clear day. Camera operators have tracked a car from nearby Sullivan City to a Chase bank in McAllen around 20 miles away, said field service representative Robert Robinson.

On average, the balloon picks up 500 to 600 illegal alien incursions per week.

The Border Patrol aerostat surveillance balloon situated on La Anacua Ranch near Rio Grande City, Texas, on March 22, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

The aerostat’s live camera feeds transmit to the Rio Grande City and Zapata Border Patrol stations, and the information helps Border Patrol allocate resources and respond to priority situations. The cameras, which are designed for low-flying aircraft, have night and day vision.

Ortiz said Border Patrol has a direct line of communication with the Mexican military across the border and they work together frequently.

“If we, our aerostat, sees something on the Mexican side, we’re not afraid to call the Mexican military to vector them into a [drug] seizure,” Ortiz said. “I don’t care who makes the seizure as long as somebody makes it and it’s not the bad guys.”

On March 28, Rio Grande City agents saw several illegal aliens carrying bundles of marijuana across the border. As the agents responded, the smugglers abandoned the bundles and fled to Mexico. Agents found five bundles of marijuana weighing nearly 280 pounds and worth an estimated $223,000.

On the same day, another 175 pounds worth $140,000 were found by agents in an abandoned residence nearby.

Epoch Times reporter Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.