Mexico’s $4 Billion Drug Bust

Is $4 billion in meth a lot? Some numbers for perspective.

Earlier this week, the Mexican authorities seized 15 tons of pure methamphetamine in Guadalajara, with an estimated street value of $4 billion. This got me to wondering, is that a lot? The answer is, yes. There have been larger busts in terms of weight, but few, if any, have been quite this valuable. For the sake of comparison, 15 tons of gold would cost less than $1 billion. The entire Afghan opium economy is estimated to be worth $4 billion – imagine all of it sitting in one warehouse. The entire GDP of Sierra Leone is only $2 billion. With $4 billion, one could buy the entire Manchester United and New York Yankee franchises and still have half a billion left over.

The stash probably belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, which has been described by US officials as “the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world“. It’s leader, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (known as El Chapo), is ranked as the 55th most powerful person in the world by Forbes magazine.  The Governments of Mexico and the US have offered $2.5 million and $5 million, respectively, for information leading to his arrest.

Since 2006, the Government of Mexico, with help from the US – home to most of the demand that drives the trade, and the guns that drive the violence – has been fighting the cartels in a war that has claimed more than 50,000 lives. In 2007, authorities seized 25 tonnes of cocaine – the biggest powder bust in history. Less than two years ago, the Federales seized 105 tons of marijuana in Tijuana – also the biggest grass bust in history. But that was just pot, which meant the street value was less than $500 million – peanuts in comparison to the latest haul. The strangest thing though, was the packaging (shown below).

Marijuana packaging with Homer Simpson proclaiming "I'm going to get high, dude!"

Also, ever wonder what a pile of $205 million looks like?

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