Drug Cartels’ Latest Weapon

August 21, 2018 Crime , North America , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER

Reuters photo



Ricardo Swire



CARICOM intelligence officials forecast more use of armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones around the region by Mexico’s super cartels. In October 2017 law enforcers seized a weaponized drone in possession of CJNG members and December 2017 recorded the first aggressive armed drone scenario piloted by Mexican cartel operators. Continuance of such activity would herald the underworld’s technological advancement, from drones that transport drugs and conduct surveillance, to machines that carry out assassinations.


On July 10, 2018 the Mexican Public Safety Secretary for Baja California was attacked by unidentified UAVs at his home. Baja California is located in colonia Los Laureles in Tecat, a border city in the San Diego/Tijuana metropolitan area. One drone was equipped with audio and video technology, plus two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which failed to detonate, the second UAV providing surveillance. Reports verify the CJNG, Tijuana Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel control individual trafficking operations in Baja State and along the US/Mexico border.


Since 2009 US federal agencies used “Predator B” UAVs to gather intelligence in Mexican airspace. Such model is an unarmed version of the “MQ-1 Predator,” used by American Special Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. From March 2012 Mexico’s Navy deployed its drones to support the government’s antidrug operations against organized crime groups and cartels. The Mexican Navy’s specially developed aerial technology is reinforced with carbon fiber, with a wingspan of two point five four meters, weighing nine point five kilograms.


In 2013 Mexico’s appetite for UAVs increased sevenfold. Israel is comfortably top drone supplier to Latin America. Between 2005 and 2012 Tel Aviv supplied US$500 million worth of UAVs to that region. In 2010 Brazil received the biggest sale comprised fourteen drones valued US$350 million. In June 2013 Bolivian counter-narcotics enforcers found two hundred and forty drug labs in the Santa Cruz department, aided by Brazilian drone intelligence data.


Despite America’s reputation as principal supplier of modern security technology and equipment to the Caribbean and Latin America, US manufacturers are subjected to strict controls and regulations regarding drone sales. According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) data, since 2014 Mexican Cartels have utilized “custom-made narco drones” to smuggle cocaine across the US/Mexico border.





Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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