- Mexican drug cartels are using drones to smuggle drugs across the border.
- The Trump administration increased border-crossing restrictions.
- Briberies to US Border Patrol agents have increased.
Mexican drug cartels used a host of new methods to maintain operations amid the coronavirus restrictions and increased crackdowns at the border. According to a New York Times investigative report, narco-trafficking cartels, like other legitimate businesses, were severely impacted during the pandemic.
Consequently, their drug shipments to the US diminished during this period. Many of them were forced to cut costs and divert resources that would have otherwise gone to beefing up security, and expanding trafficking operations.
The impact of coronavirus restrictions was reportedly magnified by the over-reliance on drug mules to traffic drugs into the US. They regularly use vehicles with special compartments and sometimes smuggle drugs in body cavities.
With coronavirus restrictions preventing regular travel between Mexico and the US, the drug cartels initially stockpiled the drugs in Mexico. Later on, they started to adapt more creative smuggling methods, such as the use of drones. There was also a marked increase in the use of narco-tunnels during this time by over 40 percent.
According to Scott Brown, a senior official at the Homeland Security Investigations office in Arizona, drone interceptions have become more prevalent since the onset of the pandemic. He said:
“We are detecting drone smuggling attempts and interrupting drone smuggling attempts with regularity, and that certainly wasn’t the case a year ago. Across the southwest border, rare is the day that there isn’t a drone smuggling attempt. And I’m sure we’re not picking up on all of them.”
Other methods that the traffickers are using include flying them in using ultra-light aircraft, and firing them using catapults.
Countering Trump’s Border Restrictions
Mexican cartels have also amped briberies to US border patrol agents in order to continue their smuggling operations. This is after increased crackdowns by the Trump administration on illicit crossings.
According to a new report by Business Insider, the Trump administration has spent hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money to prevent illegal border crossings. It has also built a border wall spanning about 400 miles, but the results are mixed due to corruption.
According to a narco-trafficker who spoke to Business Insider, bribery payments made added up to more than $5,000 a month for each patrol agent on the cartel’s payroll.
“We pay as much as $10,000 to a migra [Border Patrol officer] only to look the other way while we are using a tunnel to smuggle drugs and to tell us of new trends on surveillance,” she said.
She also revealed that cartels maintain connections with CBP officers situated at the international border crossings.
“Some of them provide us with the shift role so we know who is gonna be working where on that week and plan our shipment. That way we know if one of the agents working [with us] is gonna be on a shift and exactly on which lane number,” she said.