MEXICAN soldiers seized 105 tonnes of marijuana with a US street value of more than $340 million (€246m) on Monday in Mexico’s biggest-ever pot haul, the army said.
Heavily armed soldiers raided homes in a poor suburb of Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California, and came under fire at least once as they took the drugs, also arresting 11 suspected traffickers.
Troops found the narcotics wrapped in 10,000 brown and silver packages in houses and a parked truck. The marijuana was brought from across Mexico over several months and bound for the US.
“The seizure of these drugs is without precedent in the country,” General Alfonso Duarte told reporters at a military base in Tijuana, adding that the drug was worth $344m.
The marijuana was painstakingly wrapped and labelled with signs and logos for a series of specific distributors in the United States, the army said.
The bust is good news for President Felipe Calderon, who has staked his reputation on beating back powerful drug cartels in a military-led campaign he launched in December 2006.
Calderon is under pressure to show his drug war is working as the death toll over the past four years climbs to nearly 30,000 people, putting Washington and foreign investors on edge and provoking alarm among many Mexicans.
Mexican cartels have grown extremely powerful over the past decade, while violence sparked by cartel rivalries has spread beyond long-troubled cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez to formerly peaceful places including the wealthy industrial city of Monterrey and the Caribbean resort of Cancun.
Mexico is one of the world’s top marijuana producers, exporting about 7,000 tonnes of the drug a year. Marijuana and home-grown heroin together generate more than $10 billion in exports for the cartels every year, according to estimates.
Gen Duarte said authorities were still counting and weighing the packages and the amount could increase. He said the drugs — labelled with apparently coded phrases and pictures that included Homer Simpson — would be incinerated immediately after the weighing and counting is completed.
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