HomeNewsMilitary-Grade Weapons in Michoacán Put Mexican Forces on War Footing
NEWS

Military-Grade Weapons in Michoacán Put Mexican Forces on War Footing

HOMICIDES / 4 MAR 2022 BY HENRY SHULDINER EN

Makeshift bombs and grenade launchers are now being used in battles between cartels and Mexico’s security forces in an alarming escalation of firepower.

During a three-week span in February, anti-mine squads of army troops unearthed at least 250 homemade explosives in the western state of Michoacán, La Jornada reported.

The anti-mine units were sent to Michoacán after a roadside explosion destroyed an armored truck that was part of a military convoy patrolling roadways near Tepalcatepec. That blast was attributed to an improvised explosive device (IED), according to the Associated Press (AP), which reported that it was the first time an IED had been successfully deployed by cartels in Mexico.

About two weeks after the roadside blast, a farmer was killed and his son injured in an explosion while working in the municipality of Aguililla, Milenio reported. The farmer, according to the report, stepped on what was described as a homemade landmine.

SEE ALSO: How Mexico's Cartels Have Learned Military Tactics

Meanwhile, the Mexican military has added to its firepower in Michoacán. Troops are now wielding rocket launchers to take out trucks that have been retrofitted as armored vehicles, Milenio reported. In January, the army confiscated a truck built with metal sheeting to withstand .50-caliber bullets and eight-layer thick bulletproof windows. In February 2020, the army seized a retrofitted dump truck in Aguililla, which also had been repurposed into a “narco-tank.”

The most recent discovery of war-quality weaponry happened on March 2, when Mexican authorities in Michoacán secured a building used for the production of explosives dropped from drones. In the building, officers found more than 30 "potatoes," round bombs made from gunpowder, metal nails and other sharp objects.

Much of the escalation in firepower has been blamed on incursions by the violent and powerful Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG). The CJNG has laid siege to the state in its effort to drive out other drug gangs, such as the Cárteles Unidos, an alliance between a number of local groups, including the Viagras and the Cartel de Tepalcatepec.

InSight Crime Analysis

Weapons that are more likely to be found in war zones are increasingly being used by cartels, and Mexico’s military is responding with overwhelming firepower.

Ten years ago, criminal groups operating in Michoacán had armed pickups, semi-automatic weapons and a limited number of explosives such as grenades. Over the past few years, groups have upgraded to massive makeshift armored vehicles, modified drones carrying explosives, and other improvised war-type weaponry. IEDs are the most recent addition to this arsenal, and their appearance in Michoacán is particularly concerning, given that they are cheap, relatively easy to make and can have devastating effects.

SEE ALSO: Tepalcatepec, Mexico: A Staging Ground for Drone Warfare

One of the IEDs discovered in Michoacan recently was described as a PVC pipe bomb containing gunpowder, iron for shrapnel, a battery and two connectors with cables activated on contact, according to Milienio. Authorities told the news outlet that they fear experts are advising the CJNG on creating and developing the devices.

The Mexican army has responded to the fighting in Michoacán with battle-grade force. This includes not only the use of rocket launchers but Black Hawk helicopters to patrol the region, according to a November 2021 AP report.

While local groups operating in Michoacán have also intensified their arsenals, they are keener to reach an accommodation with federal forces, as they do not have the will or the means to compete with the army in direct conflict. The well-resourced CJNG, however, has ramped up its use of violent tactics and language against the army and government. “There is always an element of negotiation when you use [violence] against the state,” Falko Ernst, a senior Mexico analyst for International Crisis Group, told InSight Crime. With the use of these new weapons, the CJNG could be trying to leverage their position with the Mexican army by “sending a message to stay clear from our territory or turf because we have a potential to escalate,” he said.

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

BELIZE / 10 AUG 2021

The leader of a transnational money laundering network cleaned drug money through a scheme that included casinos, a seafood export…

CANADA / 13 DEC 2021

The story of the Mexican cartels and their influence abroad has mostly focused on the United States. But a number…

EL MENCHO / 2 SEP 2021

As violence has continued to rise in Mexico year after year, criminal groups have adopted an increasingly militarized approach to…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…