Troops operating in northwestern Mexico discovered the biggest marijuana plantation in the country’s history, the military said Thursday. The 120-hectare (296-acre) spread had the potential to yield 120 million tons of marijuana worth roughly $158 million, the commander of Mexico’s 2nd Military Region, Gen. Alfonso Duarte Mujica, told the press.
The growers attempted to disguise the nature of the operation by placing tomato plants among the marijuana, he said. The plantation was found on the south side of Ensenada, near the U.S. border, just 2 kilometers (1.6 miles) from the main north-south highway in Baja California state, the general said. Around 60 workers fled the scene when they saw the soldiers approaching, but the troops managed to capture more than a dozen laborers, Duarte said.
Mexico, the main conduit for illegal drugs entering the United States, produced roughly 19,000 tons of marijuana in 2009, according to official estimates. Besides domestically produced marijuana, heroin and crystal meth, Mexican drug cartels traffic in cocaine and heroin from South America. More than 40,000 people have died in Mexico since December 2006 in a conflict pitting rival drug cartels against each other and the security forces.
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