From the Sinaloa Cartel, the narcolaboratory in the middle of the forest

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From the Sinaloa Cartel, the narcolaboratory in the middle of the forest


 September 3, 2018

Photos: Jorge Dueñes
Print edition  Inés García Ramos Monday, September 3, 2018 01:00 PM

In a year, the mega laboratory found by the Army in La Rumorosa, could have manufactured up to 73 tons of methamphetamine, which translates into sales of up to 481 million dollars in the United States. With first-class industrial equipment and thousands of liters of chemical precursors, it is one of the Sinaloa Cartel's main investments to dominate the synthetic drugs market in the United States, whose demand continues to rise.


The largest methamphetamine laboratory that has been located in Baja California belonged to the Sinaloa Cartel. It was not within the urban sprawl, but in the middle of trees and pines, in the ejido José María Pino Suarez, near the towns of La Rumorosa and El Hongo in Tecate.

According to calculations of the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena), this laboratory installed in the open, could produce up to 73 tons of methamphetamine during the year it operated. This represents six tons per month.

In financial terms, these 73 tons of glass could be sold in the United States for up to 481 million dollars, considering the cost of three thousand dollars per pound that reaches the best quality of methamphetamine on the black market in California.

Security Corporations identify the area where the laboratory was located, as part of the territory that in Tecate controls the Sinaloa Cartel and which is mainly concentrated in La Rumorosa and extends through Ensenada to Ojos Negros and Vizcaíno.

The control of the Sinaloa Cartel includes both the transfer of drugs to the United States and the production of drugs.

The official report of the Army indicates that military elements, specifically the unit belonging to the 67th Infantry Battalion of San Quintín from the operative "El Pinalito", found the laboratory when carrying out ground operations in the area. Certainly, weeks ago, walkers from the wooded area of ​​Baja California, would have alerted the Army of the presence of strange men in the area around where they would find the clandestine laboratory.

Initially, the military operation focused on reconnaissance from air units, but the forested area hid the facilities, so they chose to travel the area on foot.

That is how they found the laboratory with the capacity to produce up to 200 kilograms a day of the synthetic drug known as crystal and with more than six thousand liters in chemical precursors and several kilograms of other chemical substances.

Some of the military elements that participated in the initial operation, narrate that the gases generated by the combination of chemicals caused, not only caused a strong smell in the surroundings, but even came to cause irritation in the skin and eyes, without need to contact

On the other hand, 26 kilometers from the border with the United States, precisely at the height of Jacume, one of the main areas for the trafficking of people and narcotics between Baja California and California, the location of the laboratory was strategic for the transfer to that area. country.

15 tubs with a reddish paste about to become glass


Colonel José Manuel Nolasco Fonseca, commander of the 67th Infantry Battalion, explained that the installation of a laboratory so close to the United States represents not only a saving in the costs and times of transfer of the drug for the criminal organization, but also decreases the risk that the drugs are seized.


Equipment with a value of more than three million pesos

From kilometer 83 of the free federal highway Tijuana-Mexicali, at the entrance to the "Bosque del Cóndor", the military units advanced 15 kilometers on the main road that leads to ranches and tourist fields.

About 100 meters from this dirt road, the laboratory was installed divided into three sections, covered by tarps like a roof, but without walls, only trees and shrubs hid the place.

In the first area were ten metal boilers, each with a capacity of 500 liters, where the manufacturing process began.

The chemical substances, such as sodium carbonate (25 sacks were found in the place) and sodium hydroxide (six sacks were found in the place), once evaporated, they traveled through tubes and mixed with a liquid substance contained in a swimming pool. plastic.

The liquid substance traveled in turn, through hoses up to two metal containers of industrial size with pressure measurement and two vertical tubes with upward direction that emitted gases.

Other chemicals used in this first stage of development is acetone, a substance that was found in a full 200-liter drum, as well as ethyl alcohol distributed in four metal drums of 200 liters each.

The areas were connected in turn by plastic hoses, transparent or black, which led the substances to other devices in the second stage that contained several tambos with other substances that were mixed to shape the final product.

In the third part there were 15 tubs, each with a capacity of 500 liters. All contained a reddish paste with green flashes that was the crystal in its penultimate stage, before drying, which would allow it to finish solidifying.

In the open air, each tub would take one night to dry, but in addition to this, two industrial centrifuges were found in the laboratory that accelerated the process to a few minutes, since the high-speed rotation of the devices mechanically separated the humidity of the product until it is ready.

For this, the machines required electrical energy that was supplied to them from generators.

In addition to this drug about to end, the military located ten tubs, each of 400 kilograms with glass already manufactured and waiting only to be moved.

Part of the additional material were four metallic filters with a capacity of 80 liters, six metal condensers with hoses of two meters each, 28 metal drums of 200 liters each with remover and two metallic gallons with the legend "tail", as well as multiple gas tank.

Only the drug already concluded and seized in the insurance, the losses are estimated between 301 and 475 million pesos, depending on the current value of the drug in California.

However, its cost in the black market increases as it rises to the north of the United States.

While the industrial equipment, without considering the chemical precursors, has a value of more than three million 600 thousand pesos.

The investigation

Not everyone can acquire the material and real estate necessary to manufacture this synthetic drug.

The purchase of chemical precursors such as sodium hydroxide requires a registration that is taken by the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris). They are only allowed to companies registered in the Tax Administration Service (SAT) and that have a previously authorized corporate name. The same goes for industrial equipment.

Therefore, in the investigations conducted by the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR), you should review the Cofepris registry to identify which was the corporate name that acquired the located material.

This was explained by Colonel Nolasco Fonseca, who indicated that it will be up to the Federal Public Ministry to follow the investigation required to find out which was the company that collaborated with the narco in the acquisition of this equipment.

While regarding the owners of the land used for the planting and manufacture of synthetic drugs, the area belongs to ejido lands, so in its investigation, the PGR must also cite the ejidatarios to determine responsibilities.


Three tons of marijuana sown, the pylon

In any military operation of this type, the elements must check the surroundings to verify that there is no danger in the perimeter. It was thus, less than 300 meters from where the laboratory was located, inmiscuidos between the most wooded area, were located two marijuana plantations.

The first with an extension of seven thousand 500 square meters with plants up to 1.70 meters high and the second with an area of ​​12 thousand square meters and a height of 1.20 meters.

Between trees and branches, the laboratory

In total, there were about 90 thousand plants with less than 20 days to be ready. This translates to almost three tons of marijuana worth almost 10 million pesos in the United States.

Army calculations indicate that this area of ​​drug production began two years ago when planting the plantations and from there the laboratory area was added.

The first plantation was delimited by a fence of barbed wire and counted on a pile of water constructed with stones and with a canvas on top to not be detected from the heights.

From the well, placed in an area with more height than the plantations, there were thick hoses, each with a perforated plastic bottle with several holes, which moved the water to the plants.

Since the plants were almost ready to be defoliated and cut, some of these hoses had been disabled by the crop managers themselves. After only the female plants are chosen, precisely from where the hemp or fruit comes out, better known as tails, these pieces are accumulated and transferred to other facilities where, with the help of a mechanical compressor, they are compressed and given a rectangular shape to wrap them in cinnamon appointment and transport the marijuana in blocks or packages.

The Army also detected that the seeds of the plants could have been genetically manipulated, since in a period of three months they reached the maturity that in another type of cannabis reaches up to six months.

The 90 thousand plants were uprooted and on a bed of sticks, incinerated in its entirety, in a military operation.

Camps and hawking tasks

Although, in the laboratory area there was a space dedicated to the food kitchen and with tents, it was in the second plantation where the main camp was located with a kitchen that included an improvised fire pit of a metal tambo and a table placed between branches of trees.

Military elements calculate that each week, the ten people who lived there and were responsible for both the manufacture of the drug and the maintenance of the plantations, received food for cooking, as well as water and beer.

This, due to the freshness of some items such as eggs and tortillas. In the same way, they even had a press to make tortillas.

Unlike other plantations, in this camp, the garbage was contained in black bags that were surely carried by the same people who left their food, to avoid being detected by people who moved in the area.

As a form of communication, they used frequency radios, of which only the chargers were left in some of the tables.

After this better equipped kitchen, when climbing a slope of about 200 meters there was one more camp. Six mattresses placed on the floor and surrounded by tarps to simulate a tent made up the rest area of ​​the hawks.

The division of tasks was so precise that a person remained on duty outside the camp and with a direct view of the road and the main roads. This was deduced by the military when they found a pillow and a blanket under a tree in this area.

Professionals, who managed the team

At the same point there were personal hygiene items, such as toothpaste and toothbrush. Similarly, there were marks left with cans and other objects at various points in the highest area to monitor the surroundings.

Partly thanks to the logistics that the personnel maintained, the military suspect, is that they could operate for so long without being discovered.

In the same way is that due to this camp in the heights, they could flee when they saw the entry of military units, since no arrests were reported.


How is a laboratory of this type dismantled?

After the PGR carries out the insurance of the chemical precursors and the drug, as well as the sampling for its investigation, the federal agency contracts the services of a company specialized in toxic waste management.

This company, which receives security from the Mexican Army during the withdrawal of substances and equipment, is in charge of both the transfer and storage or, where appropriate, the disposal of the residues of the drug laboratory.

For this, for example, it uses trucks with platforms to be able to take the industrial-size equipment.

They let go the son of the "Lord of the heavens"
The stigma of being the son of a notorious drug trafficker, such as the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes "El Señor de los Cielos", and having been imprisoned for several years, does not end for Vicente Carrillo Leyva "El Ingeniero", who after being intercepted in a post of review in Mexico City and identify with a false federal driver's license, was not an impediment for him to continue on his way.

The incident became a scandal inside the Secretariat of Public Safety capital, because the preventive police involved are now investigated for disobeying the order to retain the character and make it available to the Public Ministry for the use of official document apocryphal. Some commanders even submitted their resignation and their whereabouts are unknown.

The matter was heard a week after the August 23, police commissioners at a checkpoint on Avenida Presidente Masaryk and Mariano Escobedo, intercepted a black truck with tinted windows for inspection. Two men were traveling in the unit, one of them was identified as Vicente Carrillo Leyva, despite the fact that he identified himself with a driver's license issued by the Ministry of Communications and Transportation on behalf of Andrés Favela Vega.

The uniformed officers notified their superiors of the anomaly and when they received the order not to let Carrillo Leyva go so that a prosecutor would know about the matter, it was too late, because they had allowed Amado's heir to continue on his way. The Office of the Attorney General of Mexico City initiated an investigation folder against four police officers and two of its officers.

Alan de la Peña and Wilfrido Márquez, director and deputy director of the Coordination of Technical Support Units of the SSP Police, presented their resignation and are now wanted to know their version of the events.

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes was imprisoned in the maximum security prison of Puente Grande for crimes derived from his surname. He was first arrested in 2009 for carrying a false voter card and later was tried for the crime of money laundering for having his deceased father's money in his account and for enjoying the goods that he left him, which certainly were not subject to some ministerial assurance.

At the time, "The Engineer" declared that he used the false name of Alejandro Peralta Álvarez, since after his father's death in 1997, he had to change his life and stop studying "because I was persecuted and harassed by the police and I could never continue studying. "

"They also forced me to change my name in order to live as normal as possible, because when I showed up with my real name, I was denied entry to study and work institutions, forcing me to change my identity in order to work and support my person and my family, "said the previous occasion Carrillo Leyva.