Mexican Marines made an alarming discovery during a raid in the northern border town of Piedras Negras: a clandestine workshop used to make fake military uniforms.
Acting on an anonymous tip, marines discovered hundreds of replica camouflage uniforms in the workshop, designed to mimic those of the armed forces. Authorities even found fake body armor, also fashioned to look like military gear.
The navy maintains that the texture, design and colors of the fake uniforms were off, but photos of them (see above) appear close enough to the real thing that the untrained eye could easily be fooled.
According to naval officials, the workshop was an attempt by an unspecified criminal organization to damage the reputation of the armed forces, which has already taken a hit due to recent allegations of high-level corruption.
InSight Crime Analysis
The use of fake uniforms by drug cartels has less to do with trying to hurt the reputation of the military than with its strategic value. With relatively convincing uniforms, criminal groups can set up roadblocks, conduct robberies and carry out hits much more easily, and do not have to worry about attracting attention for being armed.
The use of fake uniforms is not unknown in Mexico. US Homeland Security agent Jaime Zapata, who was murdered in February 2011, may have been killed by cartel members posing as soldiers at a roadblock.
The success of this tactic relies on a central pillar of the government's security strategy: deploying the military in trouble spots, making their presence unremarkable in these conflict-hit zones.
Drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have also been known to personalize fake uniforms, adding badges with cartel symbols or mottos.