Testimony at El Chapo trial suggests Trump’s border wall won’t hinder drug traffickers
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that a border wall would stem the flow of drugs from Mexico to the U.S., but a senior member of one of the world’s biggest drug-smuggling cartels begs to differ.
The trial of Mexican suspected drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman began in November, around the same time it became evident that Trump’s push for a border wall might lead to a second partial government shutdown.
Over the course of the ensuing shutdown — now in its 34th day — Trump has repeatedly stated that a border wall is necessary to keep drugs from infiltrating America’s southern border.
“We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world,” he tweeted last Friday.
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However, testimony provided by a senior cartel figure at El Chapo’s trial in New York suggests that drugs tend to enter the United States through legal ports of entry, rather than unwalled sections of the border.
Jesus Zambada Garcia, a suspected drug trafficker with the notorious Sinaloa Cartel and a government witness, testified that the cartel relied on clandestine tunnels for its smuggling operations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, CNN reported.
However, once the tunnels began to be discovered, the cartel began to move drugs into the U.S. via legal ports of entry.
Narcotics were often concealed in hidden compartments in trucks or stored inside containers filled with other kinds of goods.
Zambada Garcia testified that cocaine was often stored in the middle of pallets surrounded by cans of jalapeno peppers, the New York Times reported. These pallets were then stacked on commercial trucks, which simply drove through legal border entry points.
Trump has previously suggested that drugs do not, in fact, enter the U.S. through official ports of entry.
In a Jan. 4 press conference at the White House, he said: “Remember drugs. The drugs are pouring into this country. They don’t go through the ports of entry. When they do, they sometimes get caught.”
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However, the Drug Enforcement Administration appears to side with the Mexican drug trafficker rather than the American president when it comes to their respective understandings of how drugs are smuggled from Mexico to the U.S.
In its 2018 threat assessment, the DEA reported that “only a small percentage” of drug seizures take place along stretches of the border that don’t have ports of entry.
The agency said the most common modus operandi of drug traffickers was to conceal product in cars and trucks — smuggling methods described by Zambada, and that wouldn’t be hampered by a border wall.
“What you’re hearing in [the El Chapo] trial is what front-line border workers observe throughout,” Doris Meissner, former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, told the New York Times.
“The idea that people are walking drugs across the border as though they are illegal immigrants who would then be stopped by a wall across the border, that is not the pattern.”
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