MEXICO CITY -- Mexico celebrated a rare coup in its fight against the country's powerful drug cartels: the seizure of more than 105 tons of marijuana with a street value of $340 million in the border city of Tijuana.
The pre-dawn raid took place Monday in two of Tijuana's most impoverished neighborhoods, Arroyo La Mar and Playas de Tijuana. A further raid is said to have taken place in Rosarito, a popular destination with American tourists, 16.5 miles south of Tijuana.
The "historic" stash of marijuana was discovered after Mexican police came under fire from alleged drug traffickers. Once violence broke out, Tijuana police asked for reinforcements from the military. A total of 11 people were arrested, and a police officer and one suspect were wounded.
In the raids, authorities found more than 10,000 color-coded packages, all neatly packed and ready to be shipped off in trucks to various destinations in the United States.
The marijuana was wrapped in silver, grey, yellow and red packages, each with a different logo, which authorities said were meant to identify the area in the United States where the shipments were to be sent.
Some packages depicted a dog, another a smiley face. One even had a scornful looking Homer Simpson with the inscription "Voy de mojarra y que wey!" which roughly translates as "I'm going to get high, dude!"
"The seizure of these drugs is without precedent in the country," Gen. Alfonso Duarte said at a press conference at a Tijuana military base. The raid comes two weeks before California votes on whether to legalize small amounts of marijuana.
Drug-related violence in Mexico has claimed nearly 30,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 and deployed up to 45,000 soldiers to fight Mexico's vicious drug cartels.
As the Mexican government struggles to weaken the power of the drug cartels by the use of force, Calderon recently opened up the debate on the legalization of drugs as a possible way to finally make a dent in the power of Mexico's drug traffickers.
"Mexico's plight stems from living next door to the biggest drug user on the planet," Calderon said back in June.
On Tuesday, Calderon congratulated the military and local police authorities for carrying out the largest seizure of marijuana in Mexico's history.
"It means, without a doubt," he said, "a very strong blow to the financial structures of organized crime in our country."