by: John Rodriguez
They look like makeshift vehicles from some post-apocalyptic film, but in parts of Mexico the armored monster which may be found vehicles traveling down or parked alongside the road are quite real and are not property to some movie being filmed. Constructed by Mexican drug cartels in recent months, the metal behemoths are popping up through war zone areas of Mexico affected by the ongoing drug cartel wars.
The recent drug wars embarked by the Mexican government against the cartels, and the turf wars ongoing between the Zetas (one of Mexico’s powerful cartels) and other cartels have transformed parts of Mexico into a warzone where senseless and lawless killings has risen and scared of foreign travelers and investors. The Zeta Drug cartel was started by former Mexican special forces soldiers and is considered to be the country’s most deadliest cartels.
On one weekend alone, Mexican authorities came across two makeshift Mad Max-like vehicles in the northern border state of Tamaulipas where the armored vehicles first started to appear when the turf war between the Gulf Cartel and Zeta Cartel began. According to the Mexican Defense Department, the armored trucks were being wielded together in a metalworking shop in Camargo which was discovered to have created and modified nearly 23 trucks to support the ongoing conflict.
Built upon three-axle truck beds, the makeshift monster tanks have room for up to 20 armed men, said one official from the defense department. The trucks were discovered to have an inch-thick of steel equipped with interior insulation that could withstand 50-caliber fire. While the look of the tankers can cause some intimidation, Mexican Army Officials who are charged with leading the fight against the cartels are not impressed nor fear the tanks since they view the constructed vehicles to be difficult to maneuver since their purpose is to simply frighten their cartel rivals by appearance alone.
A drug policy expert named Sanho Tree, from Washington-based research group at the institute for Policy Studies, commented that the vehicles remembered him of two American warships known as the Monitor and the Merrimack which were built as the first naval ironclad ships that took part during the Civil War. Tree mentions how trucks will soon have “shielding for tires, their Achilles’ heel, blast pads in the flooring, up-armoring, et cetera,” since the drug business is growing and the mutation of vehicles will be necessary in order to empower the cartels’ ongoing efforts.
Recently, the top lieutenant, third-in-command, and one of its founding members was arrested. Jesus “El Mamito” Rejon was captured in a Mexico City suburb on Sunday without incident. With the surmounting violence occurring in Mexico, the United States offered a $5 million dollar reward for Rejon who has been linked to the murder of two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents earlier this year. Rejon was captured while traveling with a Mexico City police officer who was brokering a deal with the lieutenant in order to secure him safe passage. The officer was arrested along with Rejon.
An estimated 40,000 people have died in Mexico due to the wars since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006. While officials are not intimidated by the monstrous trucks, the images taken of such creations shows there is no limit when cartels like the Zeta would go to in order to ensure they remain in business. And while the President has tried deploying a military presence into the streets to combat these cartels, the cartels presence and violence continue to rise in challenge: both in vehicles and other forms of continuing their violent streak.