Testimony: Shortly after 9/11, Mexican military began destroying Sinaloa cartel’s clandestine airfields

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El Paso and Ciudad de Juarez border

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The U.S. had just suffered one of its greatest terrorist attacks when Mexican soldiers began an operation to destroy makeshift airfields made by the Sinaloa cartel just south the border, shifting the criminal organization’s method of transporting drugs to the border.

An informant testified during the trial of two Sinaloa cartel members in federal court that, in the wake of 9/11, U.S. authorities had identified the airfields and forwarded their location to the Mexican government.

For years, the Sinaloa cartel had trafficked thousands of kilos of cocaine through the air but would change its method of delivery in a show of its resourcefulness, brutality and reach.

Arturo Shows Urquidi and Mario Alberto Iglesias, two high-profile members of the Sinaloa are on trial in U.S. court in El Paso. On Friday, the trial took a break and is scheduled to continue next week.

Arturo Shows Urquidi. / Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Several witnesses have taken the stand, including former cartel members and Mexican police officers who witnessed the Sinaloa’s development in Juárez during the mid-2000’s.

The trials are part of a large indictment by a federal grand jury that included Sinaloa cartel leaders Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Ismael “Mayo” Zambada Garcia. On April 24, 2012, the leaders and 22 other members of the cartel were charged with criminal activities ranging from trafficking drugs to conspiracy to kill in a foreign country.

David Sanchez Hernandez, a former sergeant with the Juárez police and Ricardo Rodriguez, a former member of the cartel, told a jury the cartel began using tankers to traffic drugs to the border. Bundles of cocaine would arrive in Juárez in secret compartments lined inside the vehicles.

Drivers would unload the drugs in front of cartel members as they were the only ones who knew about the secret compartments on the vehicle.

Cocaine packages would sometimes have a stamp with a car brand’s logo, which included Audi, Jaguar, Volkswagen. They also sometimes had a star and the cartoon character Mimin Pinguin.

The stamps signified that the cocaine inside had been tested, according to Sanchez, who helped sort out the drugs. He testified that Urquidi, a former member of the Chihuahua state police, would also help sort the drugs and then transport them to safe houses in Juárez.

Sanchez told jurors the counts were always accurate and the drug supply was always accounted for because suppliers would count the drugs in front of the drivers to discourage any theft of the drugs.

The emptied tankers would then be filled with gas and other illicit items including firearms and drug money. He said 50-caliber rifles, AR-15’s, .38 super handguns, 5.7 ammunition, AK-47s and other forms of ammunition were sent back into Central Mexico.

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