Authorities have announced that the number of small landing strips used by drug traffickers has spiked in the past four years by more than 700 percent, compared to the annual average from 1988 through 2004. I've not seen a great deal about Mexicans moving drugs through the skies in the past couple of years, certainly not as much as what was written about El Señor de los Cielos, Amado Carrillo, yet this suggests that planes are an increasingly important tactic.
Questions abound: Is this a response to more troops on the ground and capos being hemmed into specific areas, whereas in the past they were freer to roam the nation? It's noteworthy that one of the municipalities with the highest number of clandestine airstrips was Badiraguato, the hometown of Chapo Guzmán.
Is this more a reflection of drugs being moved from Colombia to Mexico, within Mexico, or are private planes jumping the US border, too?
Is this increase more a product of increased searching by authorities, or increased building?
In any event, this certainly supports the arguments coming from Aguachile that Mexico needs to invest in its air force.
Random aside: when I first arrived in Torreón, I was a semi-serious runner, and I used to hit the road every morning before dawn, because after the sun comes up drinking beer is the only viable outdoor activity in the North of Mexico. I always used to see small planes at that hour, seemingly about halfway through their approach, as though they were heading to an airport 50 miles away. I lived about ten minutes from Torreón's airport, so when planes would come in to land, they would be right on top of me. These planes were clearly heading somewhere just a bit over the horizon, but the nearest big city in that direction was Durango, which was a couple hundred miles from La Laguna. When I asked about the planes, people would say, "Son los narcos", or words to that effect. Although one person suggested that it was Bush and the CIA.