Homer Simpson does pot: Marijuana packages seized by Mexican authorities have creative labeling
Some 105 tonnes of marijuana has been seized in Mexico, in what is expected to become the country’s biggest ever drug bust.
Eleven people were arrested yesterday in the city of Tijuana after a pre-dawn gun battle between members of the drug cartel and police and soldiers - two people were injured.
The marijuana was found in six cargo containers in a warehouse, wrapped in 10,000 packages and has a street value of $321million.
It was discovered after police on a routine patrol intercepted a convoy of vehicles escorting a tractor-trailer that had left the warehouse, officials said.
A shootout ensued before the 11 arrests in the city, which is across the U.S. border from San Diego, California.
Police and soldiers, acting on information from the suspects, raided the warehouse and two homes, where smaller amounts of marijuana were found.
Biggest bust: Police recovered 10,000 packages containing 105 tonnes of cannabis in Tijuana
Inscriptions: The parcels were colour coded and some included a picture of cartoon character Homer Simpson accompanied with the writing: 'I'm going to get high, dude!'
Busted: Eleven men were arrested by the Mexican authorities after a pre-dawn shootout on Monday
Border: The city of Tijuana is located at the north of Mexico - across the border is San Diego
The neatly packaged cannabis - guarded by masked, heavily armed soldiers - was later displayed for the media at Morelos Army Base in Tijuana.
General Alfonso Duarte Mugica, the military’s top commander in Baja California, said the drugs had an estimated street value of 4.2billion Mexican pesos - about £215million.
General Duate said that the marijuana was destined for America, and that authorities were still counting and weighing the packages, meaning the amount could increase.
Colour coded: The cannabis was destined for America, General Alfonso Duarte Mugica - the man leading the bust - said
Seized: Alfonso Duarte Mujica, the military's top commander in Baja California, said the drugs had an estimated street value of 4.2billion Mexican pesos, or about $321million
Gun battle: Two people were injured - one police man and one member of the cartel - in the pre-dawn shootout
The drugs, he said, were wrapped in different colours and labelled with apparently coded phrases and pictures that included cartoon character Homer Simpson.
The inscription on that particular package - 'Voy de mojarra, que wey!' - is roughly translated as 'I'm going to get high, dude!'
On other drug parcel there were the names of animals, such as bulls and wolves, and on some there were symbols, including arrows.
The colours and the symbols are thought to be indicators as to where the parcels were destined.
Rounded up: The suspects are shown standing before the cannabis wrapped in 10,000 brown and silver packages, which had been hidden in six cargo containers
Symbols: The parcels had symbols and words on them - believed to indicate where the drug were to be shipped to
Coded: Here smiley faces are shown on the parcels. The drugs were destined for America, officials believe
Although Mexican drug cartels smuggle marijuana from South America, the drug is increasingly produced in Mexico.
Cannabis production in Mexico increased 35 per cent to 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) in 2009, from 8,900 hectares (21,991 acres) the previous year, according to the U.S. State Department's 2010 International Narcotics Control report.
The report attributed the increase to drug cartel efforts to 'diminish reliance on foreign suppliers'.
The seize marks a big break through against the cartels in the ongoing drug war in Mexico that has claimed 28,000 lives since 2006.
Last year, Mexican security forces confiscated a total of 2,105 tonnes of marijuana, according to government figures.
Mexico's border regions, especially the major towns directly on the U.S. frontier, have witnessed the brunt of the conflict with notable spikes in particularly gruesome violence in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, which borders Texas further to the east.
Violence peaked in Tijuana in 2008 amid a showdown between two crime bosses - Fernando 'The Engineer' Sanchez Arellano and Teodoro 'El Teo' Garcia Simental, a renegade lieutenant who rose through the ranks by dissolving bodies in vats of lye.
Garcia was arrested last January. While killings have continued, the most gruesome displays of cartel violence - decapitations, hangings and daylight shootouts - subsided.
Last week, in the wake of President Calderon's visit, several bodies were found beheaded and hanging from bridges in Tijuana, leading to fears that the cartels were resuming brutal tactics to send a message that the government is not in control.
In Ciudad Juarez, gunmen burst into a private party on Sunday and shot dead nine people, including six members of one family, security officials said.
Four people died on the spot, two others died in hospital, and the remaining two were hunted down by the gunmen and shot dead near the airport.
Nine others were killed in separate attacks in the past 24 hours in Mexico's most violent city, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, according to police.
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