JUNE 14, 2011
In northeastern Mexico, drug traffickers have begun building custom-made “narco tanks” in hopes of expanding their trades farther into the United States. These armored “monster trucks” serve several purposes: not only have they been built with the intention to transport drugs into the States, but also to return with various weapons to utilize in the Mexican drug war.
These trucks, first utilized by Los Zetas – a cartel based out of Jalisco – are weapons themselves. Built on a three-axle truck bed, each is spacious enough for as many as 20 men inside, complete with benches and air conditioning. Not only are they built with inch-thick steel plating, protecting occupants from 50-caliber weapons and grenade explosions, but they also contain peepholes for snipers and rotating turrets for 360-degree shooting. A battering ram, reinforced with steel, is attached to the front of each truck, allowing for easy demolition of cars and walls. To destroy one of these monster trucks, a military spokesperson stated, one “would have to use anti-tank weapons.”
The Mexican army seized two of these three-ton trucks on May 24 in Tamaulipas – a Gulf Coast state south of Texas – and discovered a covert workshop in Camargo, the town in which they were being built. Two more were in the assembly process and blueprints for 23 additional monster trucks were also found. They were discovered in a drug trafficking raid. Two were arrested and three were killed. To date, 20 monster trucks have been seized in northeastern Mexico, though other secret workshops are suspected to still exist. While these trucks have been used within Mexico’s borders, there have been no attempts at crossing into the United States as of yet.
One must consider the implications weaponry such as this may have on the ongoing drug war in many parts of Mexico; while the entire country is not a dangerous place, parts of it should certainly be avoided at all costs. Let’s be honest: these trucks are not concealable. While illicit drugs and “dirty money” are driven across the U.S.-Mexico border every day, these enormous steel-plated tanks do not exactly blend in with your average motor vehicle. To bring these into the United States, as well as various states in Mexico, would immediately raise suspicion at the border. How do these drug traffickers then intend to pass through security? By force? With their battering rams and sniper hatches? In no way is this an efficient, secretive method of drug transportation across country borders.
Yet internally, this is a huge development in the drug trafficking war for Mexico. In a country where many police and government officials have engaged in corruption and where the war against drug trade has not been particularly effective, these monster trucks, if not contained and eliminated, could be a valuable and very destructive resource for these gangs. Not only would we see an increase in drug and weapon transportation, but we would almost certainly see more deaths of gang members, gang leaders, policemen, and innocent citizens caught in the crossfire. By engaging in combat and potentially bypassing security enforcements, these trucks demonstrate the total autonomy under which the Mexican drug cartels operate.
While “Cleanup Operation,” initiated by President Felipe Calderón in 2008, has had some success in purging corruptible police members from their squads, several high-profile arrests, such as that of Chief of the Federal Police Victor Gerardo Garay Cadena, indicate that this problem is rooted more deeply than many could even imagine. U.S. policies in combating these gangs and the Mexican drug war have also miserably failed in Latin America, leaving these drug cartels to continue to engage in violence, destruction, and illicit drug trade between nations. With these monster trucks, one can only imagine the damage that could be done if not controlled by the Mexican Federal Police.