When Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escaped Mexico's Altiplano Federal Prison in 2015 using a nearly mile-long tunnel dug by accomplices, the world was shocked at the audacity and planning went into his getaway. But to law enforcement fighting drug traffickers like Guzman on either side of the border it wasn't that big a surprise at all — drug traffickers have been building tunnels with varying levels of sophistication between the U.S. and Mexico for years, and El Chapo has always been a huge fan of them.
There's no indication Chapo is connected to the epic drug tunnel just discovered in Otay Mesa, California but we're pretty sure he'd appreciate its size and scale. According to a CNN report, the Otay Mesa tunnel connects the San Diego suburb with Tijuana, and at "approximately 874 yards in length" — according to Southern California U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy — may be the "longest cross-border tunnel" yet discovered.
There's little doubt as to what the tunnel was used for. CNN reported that border agents recovered a whopping $22 million worth of marijuana and cocaine. While the tunnel was in use, it sounds as if it was downright comfy:
The tunnel was furnished with ventilation systems, lights and even a large elevator that led into a closet inside the Tijuana residence, officials said."
On the surface, few would ever suspect that traffickers were moving multiton quantities of cocaine and marijuana worth tens of millions of dollars in such an unassuming way, through this rabbit hole in the ground, in full view of the world around it," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in the [press] release.
Border patrol and federal drug enforcement authorities have been tunnel-busting for a decade now, and so far they've closed down 13 "large-scale operational drug smuggling tunnels," according to CNN.
On Wednesday, the Associated Press published a video report featuring a GoPro first-person journey into the Otay Mesa tunnel, which you can enjoy without the requisite scents of narco fear or freshly-packed weed below.
Drug tunnels aren't even new to the suburb of Otay Mesa. In 2012, investigators uncovered a different tunnel with a similar setup. It was also concealed by a warehouse. A narration-free video of the drug agents doing inventory with enormous bales of marijuana from that bust is below. It also takes the viewer into the tunnel and puts plenty of narco ingenuity on display, such as how the tunnel builders reinforced the ceiling and walls with a variety of materials and strung those money-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs along the way.
One thing seems sure: given that El Chapo Guzman was allegedly able to freely cross into the U.S. while on the run from just about everyone, it seems certain that there are plenty of tunnels honeycombing the borders that federal agents just haven't found yet.