CORONADO — More federal money and more cooperation from the Mexican government is needed to quell what U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) described as the diversion of drug trafficking from south Florida to the Southwest, especially the San Ysidro border area.
Wilson, speaking to reporters at the North Island Naval Air Station after taking an aerial tour aboard a Navy helicopter of the mountainous border terrain between Mexico and San Diego, said the U.S. Customs Service needs more federal money.
Wilson, the former mayor of San Diego who was elected to the Senate in 1982, also said he advocates putting "diplomatic and financial pressure on the Mexican government to ensure its cooperation" with U.S. drug and customs agents.
Wilson noted that Mexican officials refuse to allow U.S. planes to track back into Mexico small planes that are suspected of smuggling caches of drugs.
"We are willing to assist (the Mexican government) in times of economic problems. I think we are entitled to demand common decency and cooperation from them," he said.
Customs officials in San Diego and other areas along the 1,700-mile Mexican border are ill-equipped to deal with the flow of illegal drugssuch as cocaine and marijuana into the United States, Wilson said. Smugglers using low-flying planes and sophisticated radar-jamming equipment can easily thwart agents , he said.
"I don't want this to be a fair fight against the drug smugglers," he said. "We simply do not have enough aircraft."
The San Ysidro Port of Entry is considered a popular place to gain entry into the United States because of its accessibility to drug storehouses in Tijuana and the large market of drug users in Southern California, Wilson said.
"The problem is that much of the drug trafficking has been diverted to the Southwest and it would seem that the Southwest is providing a good market for it," he said.
Recently, nearly 5,000 pounds of cocaine have been seized by Los Angeles, San Diego and Mexican authorities. Mexican authorities confiscated at least 1.2 tons of cocaine earlier this week, and on Friday, nearly a ton of the drug and $730,000 in cash were taken in raids at six homes in Orange County.
Although Wilson could not say how much money is needed to begin blocking the flow of drugs across the border, he did say the money would be used to hire more people and buy more planes and radar equipment.
"We have to be able to match their resources," he said. "We are dealing with people with vast amounts of money."