May 30, 2008

Despite Safety Measures, 1.5 Tons of Marijuana Found At Sharp Plant in Rosarito

By Mariana Martínez

The recent findings of a ton and a half of marijuana inside the Sharp plant in Rosarito is clear evidence that even a certified company deemed as “safe” by US Costumes to streamline the process into the US can be a way to traffic illegal substances.

The event is being closely followed by the business community at the border, who see this as a blow to the manufacturing industry, one that could have consequences for the rest of them.

By recognizing that indeed “drug trafficking has used the C-TPAT/FAST”, that allows the agile exportation of goods from Mexico into the US, the Mexican federal government should find new ways to protect the industry and stop these cases from becoming more frequent.

This according to Baja California Economic Development Secretary César Alejandro Monraz Sustaita, who added this decision should be taken by the US government, who is in charge of the physical inspection of facilities that are certified under their program to pre-process goods and cargo.

A truck load of soldiers enter the Sharp Electronics assembly plant in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. Dozens of soldiers participated in a search of the assembly plant where, according to a high ranking military official, approximately one ton of marijuana was found, which was loaded into a trailer truck and taken away under heavy escort. Photo - David Maung.

Mexican authorities readily admit there are still some “glitches” in the security program that allowed for the drug to be packed, kept inside the Sharp plant, with delivery to an unknown destination with cargo going to Canada.

The drug was found by Mexican Armed Forces, inside the Japanese firm Sharp in Rosarito. According to Commander Sergio Aponte Polito, at least one man was arrested after the seizure.

Commander Aponte said the investigation suggests this recent seizure can be linked to one prior, where 2.5 tons of pot was found in a boat, found near the coast, just south of Rosarito.

In that incident, 11 people where taken into custody.

During the seizure in Sharp, early last Thursday May 22, dozens of soldiers gathered in the Northern part of the plant, where they found the container and seized a second one believed to be used to transport the drugs into the plant.

The property was taken and it was later found that the truck contained plasma TVs, and was bound to Canada.

The Sharp Electronic de México plant is Japanese owned and it specializes in TV manufacturing. The company came to Rosarito over ten years ago and had just expanded last November with a $170 million dollar investment.

The business community is worried of the repercussions this seizure might have on the rest of the maquiladora and manufacturing industry, for whom border fluidity is vital for their survival.

“Here we have a company certified both by Mexican and US governments, one that has earned their CTPat, with all the security measures Sharp had to take, the system was still vulnerable and we now have proof,” added Monraz Sustaita. He insisted the company is honorable and he has no doubt the conflict comes from a third party. “We as a government agency can only wait for the results of the investigation, and then we can comment”, added the public official.

“It’s an image problem, yet we are not the only port of entry that has had these problems. This time it was us, so we have to look into the matter”, he added.

According to Maquiladora Association President, Saúl García Huerta, both the truck and the driver (who was only 19 years old) are from a provider company and not part of Sharp; therefore, their reputation has not been damaged.

“But this event will help other companies to be more alert about the movement and use of space in their premises, so that they not used as this company to hide crimes”, added García.

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