Mexican troops said on Monday they discovered an underground methamphetamine lab – the first such lab they have found – in the northwestern state of Sinaloa.
Troops found the lab while on routine patrol on Sunday (June 26). It was hidden under tree branches in the town of San Antonio, a suburb of Culiacan city.
Troops said the underground lab was built with a two-level metallic structure and had a lift and ventilation. It measures 10 metres (about 33 feet) wide by 12 metres (about 39 feet) in length and 10 meters (33 feet) deep.
One level had been fitted for accommodation purposes and had a kitchen. Another level was used as a storage facility and had two rooms with chemicals.
Soldiers seized 260 kilos of methamphetamine, 180 litres of liquid methamphetamine as well as hundreds of litres and kilos of miscellaneous chemicals, six reactors with different storage capacities, five metallic condensers, six gas tanks with a capacity to hold 30 kilos each, eleven burners and diverse material to make crystal meth.
Methamphetamine, which is called by the street names of “speed,” “crystal,” and “crank,” is an addictive stimulant frequently produced in home laboratories. It can be swallowed in pills, snorted, injected or smoked.
In a written statement, Mexico’s Defense Department, SEDENA, did not mention whether any arrests were made or who operated the lab, but the Sinaloa gang – the most powerful organized crime gang in the Americas – is headquartered in Sinaloa on Mexico’s Pacific coast, an area home to large marijuana and opium poppy plantations and considered the cradle of Mexican narcotics trafficking since the 1960s.
The gang, which is led by Mexico’s most wanted criminal Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, is believed to handle 65 percent of all drugs illegally transported to the United States, drug experts say. The Sinaloa cartel is also the most international in the Americas, with cells in Central and South America, Europe, China and India, according to analysts and official sources.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who deployed the army to fight the cartels in December 2006, has won praise from Washington for his tough stance on organized crime, and the military has captured and killed a string of top drug lords over the past year.