HomeNewsAnalysisVideo: Narco-Trucks Ready for War in Mexico
ANALYSIS

Video: Narco-Trucks Ready for War in Mexico

GULF CARTEL / 14 APR 2011 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

The armored cars Mexican gangs use to do battle in the contested state of Tamaulipas are increasingly technologically sophisticated, equipped with sniper platforms and James Bond-style gadgets.

A video produced by newspaper El Universal surveys vehicles that the military has seized from the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel in the northern state, which is one of the most violent in Mexico.

The cars range from crude imitations of tanks to SUVs capable of stopping rounds from M-16 and AK-47s. Gunmen are shying away from using flashy, luxury cars, El Universal reports, opting instead for steel-plated vehicles more fit for combat, in some cases, than those used by the military.

Some of the modifications made to the vehicles depicted in the video indicate how bad street warfare has got in Tamaulipas. One tank-like car comes equipped with a perch, which allows a sniper to cover a 160 degree radius. A rhino truck is fitted with two shotguns in the driver's seat, as well as steel reinforcements capable of resisting grenade attacks. Other pick-up trucks have been fitted with gadgets that spray oil and nails on the road.

The army has confiscated 100 "narco-trucks" in Tamaulipas, reports El Universal. As the video shows, these are vehicles built to withstand serious offensive warfare. Armored car sales in Mexico rose 20 percent last year, according to Reuters, as upper class families sought ways to protect themselves from kidnapping and attacks. It is possible that criminal groups also contributed to the sales boom. The fact that gangs like the Zetas are buying Level 5 bulletproof cars, then further modifying them to better accommodate snipers, is an indication of how brutal the war in Tamaulipas has become.

Criminal groups in the state also make use of imitation military trucks and uniforms, like the ones thought to have been used at the Zetas roadblock where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata was killed in February. There is one key difference between the imitation trucks and those actually used by the military: army vehicles are often not even armored. That drug gangs like the Zetas are using military-style trucks and clothing, almost indistinguishable from the real thing except for small details, demonstrates their determination to exert territorial and social control in Tamaulipas. That the group are literally presenting themselves in state uniform in Tamaulipas lends support to those that compare them to an insurgency.

Perhaps more worrying than the evidence of advanced technical equipment is that the drug gangs are also showing increased sophistication in their use of "urban guerrilla" strategies. According to the video report, groups like the Zetas are known to travel in convoys of ten to 20 vehicles, carrying up to five gunmen each. They carry out carefully planned attacks, ambushing targets such as a military patrol, making use of side streets to encircle and trap their intended victim.

This kind of strategic advantage -- knowledge of the ground and, presumably, pointmen on the streets who can track the movements of the security forces -- will likely prove just as important for the drug gangs as sophisticated technological equipment. A decked-out truck is one thing, but knowing how to best mobilize an army of grenade-resistant vehicles is another.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HUMAN SMUGGLING / 3 MAY 2013

Three hundred Central American migrants were attacked aboard a train in Veracruz, Mexico while en route to the United States,…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 22 FEB 2011

As Mexico’s drug war heats up, local police officers often find themselves outgunned by drug gangs, many of which have…

MEXICO / 9 AUG 2013

Self-defense groups in Guerrero, Mexico have freed detained soldiers and entered into talks with the state government in an attempt…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.