HomeNewsTepalcatepec, Mexico: A Staging Ground for Drone Warfare
NEWS

Tepalcatepec, Mexico: A Staging Ground for Drone Warfare

JALISCO CARTEL / 14 JAN 2022 BY SCOTT MISTLER-FERGUSON EN

Criminal groups in the state of Michoacán have unleashed a concerning new weapon: a drone dropping bombs on their enemies from the sky.

Footage recorded on January 10 showed locals and members of the National Guard in Tepalcatepec, a municipality in the western state of Michoacán fleeing bombardments as a drone released military-grade C4 explosives from above. This reportedly followed several hours of clashes between armed groups, reported the Mexican press.

While no deaths were reported as a direct result of this bombing, the explosives appear to have damaged around 20 buildings, according to those same press reports.

SEE ALSO: Weaponized Drones in Mexico: Game-Changer or Gimmick?

While no group has formally claimed responsibility, the attack was widely presumed to have been carried out by the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG). The group has been fighting the rival Cárteles Unidos organization in Tepalcatepec, and across much of Michoacán, for several years and it has steadily increased its use of weaponized drones.

In 2014, reports of drones being adapted to custom purposes by criminal groups in Mexico began to surface, especially concerning their use for delivery of drugs. In 2018, two drones carrying explosives were used to target the house of a senior public official in Baja California. Both fell into his garden without causing damage.

But it is their use by the CJNG in Michoacán that has been most controversial. Of the eight recorded instances of criminal organizations using weaponized drones in Mexico, three have taken place in the southwestern state. Most famously, in April 2021, two police officers were hurt in a drone attack in Aguililla, another hotspot of violence in the state.

InSight Crime Analysis

As in previous cases of drone use by cartels, the shocking footage has sparked broad concern over the sheer firepower available to the CJNG. And while no lives are yet confirmed to have been lost to this tactic, the use of drones is becoming bolder and more frequent.

Monday's bombing did demonstrate an evolution in the apparent arms race taking place throughout Mexico's more violent states as it is the first recorded instance of explosives being dropped from a drone.

SEE ALSO: How Organized Crime Networks Are Using Drones to Their Advantage

The advantages that armed drones can bring to bear are profound. Cheaper, smaller and eliminating the need to risk the lives of individual hitmen, these tools enhance accuracy and hide from radar in an area already under heightened aerial surveillance. Despite these benefits, the technology is still more suited as a scare tactic for the moment due to a lack of lethality. However, if this cartel arms race continues, casualties being caused by these drones may only be a matter of time.

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

MEXICO / 13 SEP 2011

Mexico's arrest of 80 alleged Zetas, and confiscation of a wealth of high-tech communications material in…

MEXICO / 6 APR 2018

The Zetas were once Mexico’s most feared and violent organized crime threat. Now, the group is a fragmented shadow of…

MEXICO / 3 FEB 2014

More than 2000 illegal valves placed on Mexico's oil pipelines are sucking vast quantities of fuel from the state oil…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…