The Mexican army called a few Tijuana reporters to let them know they could tour the tunnel. Word spread like wildfire. By mid-day, 10 reporters had lined up outside the cement block warehouse in Tijuana to wait their turn, including KPBS border reporter, Amy Isackson.
Inside the building, dirt was piled high from being shoveled out by the people who built the tunnel, explained Isackson. In the middle, a big square opening bored out, and a metal ladder extended about 18 feet down into the ground.
Isackson climbed down and crawled into the tunnel. "So I am now crawling into the tunnel. I’m on my hands and knees. This part of the tunnel was nicely reinforced with wood," explained Isackson. "It was kind of like a basement out of the 70s."
U.S. authorities discovered the drug smuggling tunnel earlier this week at a warehouse in San Diego, located approximately 300 yards from the border fence.
Authorities said suspicious activity outside caught their attention. They eventually found 10 tons of marijuana in a truck that had left the warehouse and about another 20 tons inside. What wasn’t clear was how smugglers transported the drugs through the tunnel.
Down in the narrow passageway on the Tijuana side Thursday afternoon, the army loaded the reporters onto a motorized cart powered by six car batteries, to demonstrate.
A solider told the reporters to keep their elbows and knees tucked in tightly, and away they went, speeding down the tunnel at about 15 miles per hour, just like bales of marijuana, said Isackson. They passed underneath the border fence and plant roots brushed their faces, she said.
It seemed like a ride out of an amusement park. But this is the work of a drug cartel, and tied to the drug war that’s claimed nearly 30,000 lives in Mexico, said Isackson.
The two people arrested in connection with the tunnel in San Diego are scheduled to be arraigned in federal court Friday morning.