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Mexican army makes 'historic' drug seizure

10 february 2012, 16:13
Bags containing crystal methamphetamines. ©REUTERS/STRINGER Mexico
Bags containing crystal methamphetamines. ©REUTERS/STRINGER Mexico
Mexican soldiers on Thursday seized more than 15 tons of methamphetamines and other substances used to manufacture illegal drugs from a farm in western Mexico, AFP reports citing officials.

The confiscated drugs represent the biggest seizure in the country's more than five-year war against drug cartels, according to the Mexican army.

The operation resulted from an inspection of the farm by army troops in the town of Tlajomulco de Zuniga, where police report the Sinaloa and Los Zetas drug cartels have been active recently.

The drug bust came shortly after the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported Mexican cartels increasingly are producing synthetic drugs instead of cocaine.

General Gilberto Hernandez, commander of Mexico's 15th Army Military Zone, called the drug seizure "historic" during a press conference, where he showed the seized items to the media.

Authorities did not say which cartel owned the laboratory where the drugs and supplies were seized. No arrests were reported.

The complex, which was estimated to employ about a dozen people, was equipped with modern equipment such as 15 metal reactors, 12 gas tanks, nine cylinders of oxygen and nine thermostats, Hernandez said.

In addition to methamphetamine, the soldiers confiscated 4,575 liters of precursor chemicals and 2,400 kilograms of caustic soda.

Illegal drug territory rights in the state of Jalisco, where the laboratory was found, have been hotly contested recently between the Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and his rivals in Los Zetas, a cartel organized by military deserters.

Guzman is considered Mexico's most powerful drug lord.

Synthetic drugs are attractive to cartels because they can be manufactured anywhere the chemical ingredients are available, Antonio Mazzitelli, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, told AFP.

Unlike cocaine, which must be imported from South America, synthetic drug laboratories can be set up in areas of Mexico that allow easy access to the United States, he said.

Since 2006, the Mexican army claims to have dismantled 646 labs and seized more than 45 tons of methamphetamine, according to a military report in early February.

More than 50,000 people have died in rising drug violence in the past five years, according to media counts, amid a military crackdown on organized crime launched in December 2006.

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