The army has detected 80 planes carrying contraband since the new government took office 13 months ago, according to a senior military official.
Armando Ruiz Ayala, operations chief of the army’s Comprehensive Air Surveillance System (SIVA), said that a total of 630 suspicious flights have been detected since December 2018.
Of the 80 aircraft confirmed to be carrying illicit cargo, the SIVA lost contact with 30 but followed the other 50 until they landed, he said.
“Upon detecting an irregular flight, we seek to identify it with the cooperation of national and international civil and military agencies. If it’s an illicit aircraft, we deploy interceptor planes to visually identify the registration [and] the type of aircraft,” Ruiz said, adding that attempts are also made to establish communication with the crew.
“If [the plane] still isn’t identified, we go to the third stage. We order it to land in the nearest airport; if it doesn’t, it’s followed until it lands,” he said.
A specialized Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) team is then deployed to the landing site by helicopter with the aim of making arrests and seizing both the aircraft and prohibited goods.
The Sedena team has confiscated planes, drugs, weapons and cash with a combined value of 3.5 billion pesos (US $187 million) since President López Obrador took office, and the army has also collaborated on operations in Guatemala and Belize that have resulted in an additional 3.5 billion pesos worth of seizures.
The army seized drugs and weapons from two planes that landed in Quintana Roo this week. More than 600 kilograms were confiscated from the first plane, which landed on a highway near Chetumal early Monday. The army also arrested two men but not before one soldier was killed and three others were wounded in a gunfight.
The second plane was forced to land at the airfield in Mahahual, where two Bolivian citizens on board were arrested. Military personnel seized about a tonne of cocaine with an estimated value of 224.6 million pesos (US $12 million).
Source: Milenio (sp)