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Homeland Security

21 July 2003

U.S. Customs Agents Intercept Huge Marijuana Shipment From Mexico

Seizure called one of largest in recent years on U.S. southwest border

By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- U.S. customs agents have seized nearly 1,100 kilograms of marijuana from a tractor-trailer coming from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, in what is being called one of the "largest single loads of marijuana" intercepted along the U.S.-Mexican border in recent years.

In a July 21 statement, U.S. officials said the marijuana was seized when the 18-wheel truck entered the city of Laredo, Texas. Immediately after the July 11 seizure, agents from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested the driver, Gregorio Rosas-Escuedero of Nuevo Laredo, on federal drug charges. U.S. officials then developed a plan to arrest the intended recipients of the marijuana in Columbus, Ohio, an operation that is part of the ongoing investigation into those responsible for the marijuana shipment. ICE officials say they anticipate that all the suspects in the case will be identified and brought to justice.

Robert Bonner, commissioner of the Bureau of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which seized the marijuana in Laredo, said the magnitude of the operation illustrates the role that inspectors from his agency and from the ICE play in "protecting the American public from any item that may cause them harm, be it illegal drugs or terrorist weapons." Both agencies are part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Bonner said that fighting terrorism "remains our first priority, but drug seizures remain an important and traditional mission."

In another drug-related matter, the United States said it seeks to shut down so-called "super-labs" manufacturing methamphetamine, which the White House calls one of the fastest-growing "drug threats" in the United States.

John Horton, an official of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), told Congress July 18 that Mexico produces an "unknown -- but certainly significant" -- quantity of methamphetamine each year, in addition to significant amounts of marijuana and heroin.

Horton, ONDCP's director for state and local affairs, said an estimated 9.6 million U.S. residents over the age of 12 had used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime, and between 650,000 and 700,000 people were monthly users, a number which was on the rise for adults. About 1.3 million people reported using methamphetamine in 2001, Horton said.

Transnational drug trafficking organizations, especially those headquartered in Mexico, are responsible for transporting and distributing methamphetamine within the United States, Horton said. Some of these organizations operate the super-labs, which serve a vast network of transporters, distributors, and money brokers who distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, marijuana and other illegal drugs throughout the United States, said Horton.

The official told the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources that the most common ingredient in methamphetamine is pseudoephedrine, which the Mexican-controlled super-labs get from or through Canada.

Horton said one of the best ways to shut down methamphetamine super-labs is to deprive producers of easy access to bulk quantities of pseudoephedrine. Canada, he added, remains the dominant source of pseudoephedrine despite having recently adopted stronger regulatory controls on precursor chemicals.

The new regulations, Horton said, combined with joint U.S.-Canadian law enforcement operations, "may have already had some impact on the flow of precursor chemicals from Canada."

He added that "it appears that these operations may also have convinced some criminal groups in Canada to switch from exporting large amounts of pseudoephedrine to directly producing and exporting smaller amounts of methamphetamine." Horton said that "sustained precursor chemical control efforts in Canada, combined with future joint law enforcement investigations, will be necessary to disrupt methamphetamine production in the future."

As for Mexico, Horton said that the country's president, Vicente Fox, has strengthened law enforcement cooperation with the United States and has begun reforming dysfunctional and sometimes corrupt institutions. Consequently, a number of major drug traffickers have been apprehended, Horton said.

Mexico's efforts, he said, will help stem the flow of drugs, including methamphetamine, into the United States. Horton pledged that the Bush Administration will continue to support Mexico's drug-control efforts through a combination of technical and material assistance that focuses on training and operational support for arrests and attacks against drug organizations, disruption of money-laundering activities, and eradication and interdiction of cocaine and other drugs.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

This page printed from: http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2003&m=July&x=20030721170636neerge0.1429407&t=usinfo/wf-latest.html

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