Mexico troops seize 10 tons of cocaine following shootout

Mexico troops seize 10 tons of cocaine following shootoutThe Mexican Army seized an estimated 10 tons of cocaine and arrested seven people after a gun battle Friday between agents and traffickers in the streets of Tampico, Tamaulipas, according to an Army news release.No deaths were reported in what was hailed as the largest drug bust in the history of the country’s battle against organized crime, but police sources said there were several injuries.

The bust “marks another historic success for the Mexican government’s counter-drug initiatives,” U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said in a statement Friday night,

Garza praised the “the unwavering commitment of the Calderón administration,” which he said was having “an immediate and successful impact on the drug cartels and in blocking their criminal operations,” the Chronicle reported.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has committed about 20,000 soldiers to the battle against drug trafficking, including sending an unspecified number of troops to the northern Mexico border.

The National Defense Department identified the seven people arrested Friday as:

  • Alberto Díaz Martínez, 42, of Tampico
  • Juan Manuel García Sancho, 56, of Tuxpan, Veracruz.
  • Roberto Javier Reyes Álvarez, 23, of Ciudad Victoria.
  • José Guadalupe Villanueva Galván, 30, of Reynosa
  • Carlos Cerda González, 35, of Tampico
  • Javier Sánchez Cervantes, 31, of Tampico
  • Carlos Cortes Hernández, 37, of Ciudad Madero

The men were turned over to federal authorities for prosecution, Defense Department officials said. According to the news release, an anonymous caller alerted the 15th Infantry Battalion that at a location on Reynosa Street in Tampico’s Colonia Américo Villarreal – the exact address was not released – there were several armed men unloading packages from a tractor-trailer, blocking the street.

When soldiers arrived, they were met with gunfire, according to the release. The troops returned fire, eventually taking control of the scene and making the seven arrests.

Officials said there could be more than 10 tons, because soldiers were still unloading and weighing the goods late Friday night in the port city.

In addition to the drugs, the soldiers seized eight vehicles, including the tractor-trailer and several other trucks, a forklift, five firearms and ammunition for a variety of weapons.

Last week, more than three tons of cocaine were found in a plane that crashed in the Yucatan. Officials said the plane was forced down by the Mexican Air Force.

By comparison, last year, in what is believed to be the largest cocaine bust in the Laredo area, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents discovered 789 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $23.6 million hidden in a bus that tried to cross the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge.

Using that value, the 10 tons reported seized in Tampico would be worth nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars