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Military Troops Catapult Launch Marijuana Over U.S. Mexico Border

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

Drug smuggling requires some ingenuity – like a catapult -- if you don’t want to get caught in the act. Marijuana smugglers are using an age-old design to solve a simple current-day problem: how to make those drugs “fly” over international borders.

The National Guard apparently operates a remote video surveillance system of the U.S.-Mexico border, officially separating Mexico and the U.S. state of Arizona. American troops spotted people using a medieval-designed catapult to launch pounds of pot across the 'great divide'. While the U.S. says its Border Patrol agents have been in contact with Mexican authorities, about the fence and abandoned catapult, located near the town of Naco in Cochise County -- about 80 miles southeast of Tucson -- nobody quite knows whose 'side' the marijuana launchers are on.

Supposedly, Mexican authorities have disrupted the medieval-style operation, but the alleged drug smugglers are said to have fled the scene in two vehicles: a Humvee and an SUV. The catapult: well, it was left behind, along with lots of abandoned marijuana -- roughly 45 pounds of pot – and an extra’ SUV.

Night-vision footage has been captured by the National Guard, the video scene showing several men prepping the catapult, then launching packages of drugs before fleeing. Still photos show soldiers testing the catapult device, engineered through the use of elastic. The catapult was brought in on a trailer and it’s still unclear as to whether the military troops involved belong to the United States or Mexico.

"I have not seen anything like that [a catapult used with drugs as the projectile] in my time before as a Border Patrol agent ...although we are trained to handle any kind of a threat that comes over that border," claims Tucson (Arizona) sector Border Patrol spokesman David Jimarez to Reuters.

U.S. authorities claim dismantling of the catapult drug operation to be “an example of close cooperation between American and Mexican agencies.” And that is good news, indeed -- because the U.S. has needed some “close cooperation” after some other 'iffy' relations, like officer-related shooting deaths at the border.

2006 marked the official declaration of Mexico’s war on drugs – or, at least, it’s war on drug smugglers. That, of course, makes the waging of war a bit tricky, since Mexican officials are known to be involved in the drug trade. The future victor in the “war” remains to be seen, but its casualties are clear: in less than five years, the ongoing power struggle over drug trafficking in Mexico has resulted in more than 30,000 people dead.

One thing is sure: drug smugglers have since escalated from standard methods of trafficking to the more ingenious, when moving drugs over the United States border.

Previous methods of drug trafficking, across the U.S.-Mexico border, have included a clever technique involving specially-designed trucks with ramps built in the back and front. The scheme would make a prisoner proud: the trucks drive up next to the bordering fence of the United States and Mexico, and lower one ramp over to the United States side while successfully clearing the barbed wire. Meanwhile, the other ramp slides down the back of the truck -- allowing drug smugglers to literally drive SUVs, packed with drugs, across created mobile bridges. The drugs pass from Mexico to Arizona, without ever touching the fence.

The simple definition of a catapult is a device used to throw or hurl a “projectile” without the aid of explosives. The catapult isn’t new – but its current use, in hurling pounds of marijuana as a “projectile” that's shot across the U.S.-Mexico border, certainly puts a new spin on one of the world’s oldest devices.

Many argue that Dionysus the Elder, while ruler of the Greek colony of Sicilian Syracuse in 399 B.C., worked to prepare his city for a long war against Carthage –that it was Dionysus’ engineers who are responsible and credited for creation of the first catapult. In accordance with that theory, catapults were originally fired from a shoulder rather than pedestal and the device was used to fire bows.

Others insist that the catapult’s origins spring, instead, from the Chinese or the Middle East. The “Trebuchet,” it's argued, is the oldest type or form of a catapult device. And that's what has been discovered at the U.S.-Mexico border: a type of catapult powered by a counterweight.

Regardless of country of origin, the catapult needed to evolve for continued effectiveness – and when its use involved a pedestal, both the problem and its subsequent solution came into play: joints. A special joint needed to be designed, in order to connect the stock with the pedestal. Pedestals used in catapults, and the required joint in order to make it swift, didn’t arrive until the 16th or 17th century.

Even at the 17th century, the more modern catapult device has been around for quite awhile now – it’s current use, for propelling marijuana across international borders, may rank among one of the most creative since the device’s inception.

Maybe the drug trade -- or the military's “finest” -- has been reading up on today’s more useful benefits of the catapult. It wouldn't be outlandish to consider the thought that “Wired” Magazine’s ‘Science’ section, and its enthralling “Spain Declares War on Pigeons with Net Catapult,” may have served as the ultimate ‘how-to’ guide.

After all, Spain has actively and effectively reduced its "problem" segment of the bird population -- affectionately dubbed “rats with wings” -- through the simple concept of a catapult. Accused of spreading disease within the country and potentially ruining famous architecture and buildings with its corrosive droppings, the "plague" of a pigeon population is fast on its way to achieving manageable numbers. If you ask Barcelona, anyway.

Borrowing some ingenuity from Greece (or the Middle East, depending on the theory to which you subscribe), Spain has truly come to appreciate the catapult concept: while one person actively feeds a group of pigeons, to gather the birds in one small space, another person angles a net catapult.

End result: many pigeons, neatly gathered and trapped within the confines of a single net.

Borrowing some ingenuity from yet another country, Germany, Spain depends on a separate concept: once those pigeons are trapped within the confined space of a net, asphyxiate them.

End result: far fewer pigeons, after carbon dioxide poisoning.

Mexico's drug war and Spain's method for controlling its pigeon population have got a lot in common: if those were Mexican troops in that night-vision video, there'd be a lot less "pigeons" alive.

Plus, the "Punkin Chunkin" -- and its roots -- are good, ol' American fare. With catapult records averaging roughly 3,000 feet or up to nearly 4,500 feet with air-powered versions, for an 8-pound pumpkin (or "bundle").

"The Border Patrol’s partnerships with Mexican authorities, the National Guard and the public enhance our efforts to address and disrupt the organized drug trafficking threat at the border and serves to degrade the capabilities of transnational criminal organizations," claims the Tucson Sector Associate Chief, Jose Cruz, with Border Patrol. Fancy words for insinuating it's not Americans.


Department of Homeland Security U.S. Border Patrol: Tucson Sector (Arizona) Naco Station
2136 South Naco Highway
Bisbee, AZ 85603
United States
Phone: (520) 432-5121
Fax: (520) 432-5219
31° 22' 38.2368" N, 109° 55' 32.2392" W
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