MEXICO CITY – The Mexican navy seized a record 200 tons of chemicals used to produce synthetic drugs in the Pacific port city of Manzanillo, but no arrests were made, officials said.
The chemicals were found in 18 containers “that arrived from China and Korea,” and held nearly 970 metal barrels, the navy, customs service and federal prosecutors said in a joint statement.
Ethyl phenylacetate and phenylacetate acid, both considered psychotropic substances, were among the chemicals found.
“The 200 tons come on top of the 160 tons of the same materials seized on May 4 and 19 of this year, and which together could fill 35 containers that, if lined up end to end, would stretch the length of four soccer fields,” the statement said.
The seizure was made nearly a week after drug lord Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a top Sinaloa drug cartel boss, was killed in the western state of Jalisco.
Mexican police and U.S. drug enforcement agents estimate that Coronel was responsible for the production of half of the synthetic drugs in Mexico, with his operations based in Mexico’s Pacific coast region.
Coronel was responsible for the Sinaloa cartel’s operations in the states of Jalisco, Colima, where Manzanillo is located, Nayarit and part of Michoacan.
Coronel, considered one of the three most powerful drug traffickers in Mexico, died in a shootout with army troops last Thursday.
The drug lord killed one soldier and wounded another while trying to evade arrest before being gunned down by military personnel.
The 56-year-old Coronel, originally from the northern state of Durango, was one of the senior leaders of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which is led by Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
He was groomed in the narcotics trade by Juarez cartel boss Amado Carrillo Fuentes, a notorious capo who was known as “the lord of the skies” for the fleet of aircraft he employed to transport drugs and who died in 1997 from complications from plastic surgery to conceal his identity.
After Carrillo’s death, according to Defense Secretariat records, Coronel joined the Sinaloa outfit and eventually rose to become one of its top leaders.
The Pacific region is where chemicals for processing synthetic drugs usually arrive, as well as being the center for the production of these substances and the smuggling of cocaine from South America.
The illegal drugs are then smuggled via the Pacific corridor into the United States, the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs.
Manzanillo harbor master Jorge Arturo Castañeda Uscanga was arrested by marines in May on charges that he was working for drug traffickers.
Millions of dollars in cash, including $5.4 million confiscated in September 2009, have been seized at the port.