Mexican cartels moving drugs in armoured vehiclesJanuary 18th, 2012 - 6:01 pm ICT by IANS
Mexico City, Jan 18 (IANS/EFE) Mexican drug cartels are using improvised armoured vehicles known as “monsters” to protect their narcotics shipments from rival gangs, said a military officer.
The officer is assigned to the 8th Military Zone based in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, where troops have seized around 110 armoured cars, including more than 20 monsters that evoke scenes from the 1979 film “Mad Max”.
Most are heavy trucks that were equipped with armour at clandestine workshops, mostly located in Tamaulipas. Some of the vehicles can carry 12 gunmen, the officer told EFE.
Soldiers dismantled one workshop in the Tamaulipas town of Camargo in a June 2011 operation, seizing two armoured vehicles and nearly three-dozen more - including 23 tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks - that had not yet been plated.
One monster seized last year weighed more than 30 tonnes because it was covered in thick steel plates and further reinforced with railroad tracks.
The officer said troops also confiscated a cargo van dubbed the “pope-mobile” that had an elevated cabin similar to the “room” in the Roman Catholic pontiff’s vehicle, although the Mexican van was secured with metal plating instead of bullet-proof glass.
“The vehicles are built with steel plates at least an inch thick. Small-caliber projectiles, such as bullets from assault rifles, have a hard time penetrating the armour. They can only be destroyed with heavy weapons or anti-tank shells,” the officer added.
“They don’t circulate on roads or in the cities, but instead operate on byways, which are the routes used to take drugs to the border with the United States,” the source said.
The brutal turf war being waged in Tamaulipas between the Gulf and Los Zetas gangs - former allies turned arch-enemies - has forced both organizations to develop these armoured vehicles to run their businesses.
The officer noted that the state has vast semi-arid plains with hundreds of small side roads and byways where the traffickers transport their drugs in light vehicles escorted by the monsters.
Mexico is mired in a wave of organized crime-related violence that left 47,515 dead between December 2006 - when President Felipe Calderon took office and militarized the struggle against the country’s heavily armed, well-funded drug mobs - and Sep 30, 2011, according to official figures.
- Mexican armoured-car industry grows 10 percent in 2011 - Dec 10, 2011
- Two tonnes of marijuana found in Mexican cemetery - Jul 30, 2012
- 14 dismembered bodies found in Mexico - Jun 09, 2012
- Mexico takes action to keep criminals out of elections - Mar 02, 2012
- 12 inmates escape as attackers bust Mexican prison - Jan 18, 2011
- 72 bodies found in Mexico ranch - Aug 26, 2010
- Demand for private security services in Mexico up 40 percent - Dec 18, 2011
- Mexico ships 273 inmates to island prison - Oct 24, 2011
- Bus passengers kidnapped for recruitment in Mexico gangs - Apr 11, 2011
- Six killed, dumped on road in Mexico - Nov 03, 2010
- Six bodies found in Mexico - Feb 19, 2011
- 9 die in shootout in Mexico - Feb 11, 2011
- Cartel threats force people to flee cities in Mexico - Nov 23, 2010
- Nine charred bodies found in Mexico - Nov 24, 2011
- Police chief, 2 bodyguards killed in Mexico - Apr 17, 2011
Tags: arch enemies, arid plains, armoured cars, armoured vehicles, assault rifles, border state, bullet proof glass, heavy trucks, los zetas, mexican cartels, mexican drug cartels, military zone, northeastern border, pope mobile, rival gangs, roman catholic pontiff, small caliber, tank shells, tractor trailers, turf war