Guzman used a mile-long escape tunnel to flee from his prison cell to an abandoned house outside of the prison walls. The underground escape route and the various other bribes needed to spring Guzman cost an estimated $US50 million, according to The Telegraph. It was well illuminated and ventilated, and featured a modified motorcycle that could run on rails to speed up Guzman’s escape.
The cartels have had practice in tunnelling. According to the Wall Street Journal, 159 tunnels were discovered under the US-Mexican border between 1990 and 2013. The vast majority of these structures linked either San Diego or Arizona to northern Mexico.
The most labour intensive of these tunnels can cost upwards of $US1 million to construct, and they represent a major capital investment on the part of the cartels. Like Guzman’s escape tunnel, the more elaborate smuggling routes are well illuminated and ventilated, and feature rail systems for quickly shuttling large quantities of narcotics to the US market.
According to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), at least 80 such tunnels have been discovered in the US since 2006 alone. These tunnels are used for moving hundreds of tons of illicit narcotics, cash, and firearms between the two countries.
ICE has publicly documented some of the more impressive tunnels that it’s discovered during its investigations, giving an idea of just how far drug trafficiking organisations will go to gain access to some of the world’s most lucrative narcotics consumers.
In 2013, ICE found a ‘super tunnel’ linking a warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico to another warehouse in San Diego.
This super tunnel was nearly a third of a mile long. It contained a hydraulic rail system, along with ventilation and illumination systems. On average, the tunnel ran 35 feet below the ground.
The seizure of the tunnel resulted in the confiscation of 17,000 pounds of marijuana and 325 pounds of cocaine.
After ICE agents discover and investigate a smuggling tunnel, ICE agents pour concrete slurry into the openings to render the routes inoperable. But “El Chapo’s” escape shows that drug traffickers have the patience, the resources, the logistical skills, and the engineering expertise to construct sophisticated underground corridors just about anywhere they need to. This tunnel may have been sealed — but it’s likely that several others were built in its place.
You can watch the full exploration of the San Diego super tunnel below.
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