By Mariana Martínez
Under the blazing August sun, amongst arid terrains and dust covered trees, it is hard to think about drug trafficking and easy instead about having a picnic in the shade.
But it is precisely in this odd setting, far from roads and houses, that Mexican Military found what is believed to be the biggest Methamphetamine lab in the state of Baja California.
Around 150 pounds of pure crystal methamphetamine and about 37 gallons of liquid meth where found in the compound and authorities believe the seizure equals about 6.4 million doses.
Their value on the black markets well exceeds 24.6 million dollars. And these prices could double because usually drugs are “cut” 3 to 5 times before they get to the final consumer.
The amazing seizure was made after military intelligence discovered the compound in a ranch called El Halcón, around kilometer 11 in the road connecting Ensenada with the small town of Ojos Negros.
Around 7 pounds of uncooked meth; with a ton of meth ingredients and a few 5 gallon containers with the left-overs of the process,that is now used as a low quality drug called “horse tail.”
According to military intelligence, the chemicals used in the process are both expensive and toxic, so there are little spills in the ground to make the maximum profit.
A strategy shift
This sophisticated outdoor meth lab was located after taking a small dirt road behind a horse ranch. Small sheds where put around a small river where trees grow large, hiding the drug traffickers from the constant aerial inspections made by the military.
The sheds where used to keep the expensive chemicals and the camp is complete with gas and electricity provided by small orange power plants; face masks, gloves and ph level measuring tools.
A table with some food, two tents full of covers and some religious images nailed on to the trees are the only evidence somebody actually lived there.
By the shady trees are the large drying cans, some wooden tables where the crystal meth is set to dry; the large, white crystal rocks shinning like diamonds under the sneaking rays of the sun.
This sort of meth-lab is a far cry from the way this drug was manufactures just a decade ago, when addicts and traffickers alike used to cook their own meth in small apartment kitchens.
It was this method that was used when San Diego was considered the meth capital of the world.
But law enforcement has gone after those meth-kitchens in the city and the production was taken to urban Mexican cities like Tijuana in the late 90s.
But now Mexican authorities are on to small urban meth-kitchens, so producers are changing their strategy and moving their operations to rural areas.
This allows them to operate more freely and in bigger scale, something vital for a market that seams to be expanding rapidly.
According to military personnel in charge of the site, the lab found in Ensenada goes along this new found trend, where producers are adapting and shifting from the marihuana growth to the fast market of synthetic drug labs.
“Other drugs are slower to produce; you have to plant, grow, dry and slip, while syntetic drugs like meth are mass produced year round and are in growing demand” said one of the masked military men who refused to give his name.
In the city the mass production of meth is complicated, because a house or apartment can be easily linked to an owner, and the strong smell can be a red flag for authorities.
“But rural land is Mexico is loosely regulated making it easier for this “movile labs” to be set and dismanteled with little fire hazards or danger of being cought” said the capitan with the neoprene mask.