A Christmas Day raid on a ranch housing drugs uncovered millions of dollars worth of high-grade crystal methamphetamine in Manila, drugs that national law enforcement have concluded are reaching the Philippines through the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel.
The AP reports that the raid uncovered $9.4 million worth of crystal meth, and that while most of the drug caretakers on the ranch were of Philippine descent, one drug mover has ties to the Sinaloa cartel– among the most dangerous in Mexico– and could have been smuggling the drug in from across the Pacific. The Philippines National Police’s report on the situation included some harrowing facts about what the discovery means for the expansion of the Mexican drug trade. While noting that, “this is the first time, and we have confirmed the Mexicans [are] already here,” Senior Superintendent of the police’s special drugs unit Bartolome Tobias confirmed speculation that the Mexican drug cartels might be working with Chinese drug syndicates as well.
Most reports note that there is no confirmation of why the Sinaloa cartel has chosen the far-off Philippines as its new drug market. There is speculation, however. Tobias and other police officials cited the Philippines’ increasingly lax immigration policy, in large part a product of the geography of the country. With 700 islands, some are simply not being monitored, and criminals could enter the country without having to identify themselves or go through luggage checks. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Philippines has recently become a magnet for drug cartels across the planet, however– fighting off criminals from Mexico as well as China and Africa. This diversity in its criminal syndicates has left Filipino law enforcement officials “alarmed.” Three of the suspects in the current raid remain at large, and of those all are Mexican. Despite the particular immigration scenario that makes the Philippines such a dream haven for drug runners, pressure from the United States DEA on cartels working in Mexico and across the northern border are suspected to have made the drug cartels far more creative in how and where to distribute their product.
The Sinaloa drug cartel is among the most notorious and problematic in both Mexico and the United States. Having risen to prominence in the United States in the 1990s, cartels have now been reported to run drug markets deep inside the United States, with the AP reporting that Sinaloa, the cartel providing the majority of internationally-produced drugs to the United States, has become a threat in many major cities, particularly Chicago. The dangerous mixture of drug cartel leaders and assorted gang members led to Sinaloa cartel heads hiring Chicago gang members to do their bidding. The Sinaloa cartel also received over 2,000 guns directly from the United States government during the failed Fast and Furious operation meant to track the locations of gun users within the cartel.