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Mexico makes record 105-tonne marijuana haul
TIJUANA, Mexico |
TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexican soldiers seized 105 tonnes of marijuana with a U.S. street value of more than $340 million on Monday in Mexico's biggest-ever pot haul, the army said.
Heavily armed soldiers raided a series of 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 together from across Mexico over several months and bound for the United States.
"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 4.2 billion pesos ($344 million).
The marijuana was carefully wrapped and labeled with signs and logos for a series of specific distributors in the United States, the army said.
The bust came as U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited San Diego to underscore efforts on the northern side of the border to crush the cartels. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops along the border in May to stop smugglers and migrants trying to cross illegally.
"Over the past two years, our seizures of illegal drugs, currency and weapons have increased significantly," Napolitano said.
Napolitano said arrests by U.S. agents had fallen by more than a third to 463,000 in fiscal year 2010, compared with 2008, meaning that fewer people are attempting to cross into the United States.
The bust is also 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 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 private estimates.
(Writing by Robin Emmott; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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