Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #22: Narco Tank Factory Discovered in Nuevo Laredo

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #22: Narco Tank Factory Discovered in Nuevo Laredo

Robert J. Bunker and Byron Ramirez

Key Information:  SALA DE PRENSA, “SEDENA ASEGURA BODEGA DONDE BLINDABAN VEHÍCULOS DE MANERA ARTESANAL; PGR INICIA INVESTIGACIÓN.” Miercoles, 04 de Febrero de 2015, Boletín 027/15, http://www.pgr.gob.mx/prensa/2007/bol15/Feb/b02715.shtm:

La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) y la Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) a través de la Subprocuraduría de Control Regional, Procedimientos Penales y Amparo (SCRAPPA) por conducto de su Delegación en Tamaulipas, informan la puesta a disposición de trece automóviles, ocho de ellos blindados, los cuales fueron asegurados en una bodega utilizada como taller para blindar vehículos.

Previo al aseguramiento del inmueble y vehículos, elementos de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional notaron que en el tramo de la carretera federal número 2, con dirección Reynosa-Río Bravo, a la altura del kilómetro 74.8, un hombre huyó con radios de frecuencia al ver la presencia militar y al darle seguimiento, observaron que éste se introdujo a la bodega.

Al llegar al inmueble, se percataron de que en el interior de la bodega se encontraban 13 autos abandonados, algunos de ellos blindados de manera artesanal, los cuales se describen a continuación:

-Una camioneta color blanca, marca GMC, modelo Sierra, con placas del estado de Texas, con blindaje artesanal

-Una camioneta Chevrolet, color gris, sin placas, con blindaje artesanal.

-Una camioneta color blanca, marca GMC, modelo Sierra, con placas del estado de Texas, con blindaje artesanal,

-Una camioneta color azul, marca Chevrolet, modelo Avalanch, con placas del estado de Texas, con blindaje en proceso.

-Una camioneta color gris marca Ford, modelo F-150, con placas del estado de Texas, con blindaje artesanal-

-Una camioneta color rojo, marca Ford, modelo King Ranch Lobo, con placas del estado de Tamaulipas, con blindaje artesanal.

-Una camioneta color negra, marca Ford, modelo Lobo, con placas del estado de Tamaulipas, con blindaje artesanal.

-Un carro color negro, marca Mercedes Benz, con placas del estado de Texas, con blindaje de fábrica.

-Una camioneta Chevrolet color negra, marca Silverado, con placas del estado de Texas.

-Una camioneta color blanco, marca Nissan, con placas del estado de Tamaulipas.

-Una camioneta color negra, marca Ford, modelo F-150, con placas del estado de Texas.

-Una camioneta color blanca marca Chevrolet, modelo Cheyenne, con placas del estado de Tamaulipas.

-Una camioneta color roja, marca Chevrolet, modelo 1500, con placas del estado de Texas.

Asimismo fueron asegurados ocho cargadores desabastecidos para alojar cartuchos calibre 7.62x39, 495 cartuchos calibre 7.62x39, 46 cartuchos calibre 3.08 y 4 cartuchos calibre 50 mm.

Cabe señalar que en diferentes partes de la bodega se encontraron máquinas para realizar soldaduras y cortes de metal, así como material diverso para realizar el trabajo artesanal de blindaje, lo cual también fue asegurado.

Todo fue puesto a disposición del Agente del Ministerio Público de la Federación quien continúa con la integración de la averiguación previa por violación a la Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos y lo que resulte.

Procuraduría General de la República (PGR)

Video “SEDENA asegura bodega donde blindan vehículos de manera artesanal; PGR inicia investigación.” YouTube. 6 February 2015, 1.17 minutes, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQosZEvWBDw.

 

Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) Video Frame

Who: Derived from the location of where the armored vehicles were found, it is believed that they belong to a faction of the Cartel del Golfo (CDG).  Major factions have included Los Metros, Los Panteras, and CDG del Sur. These warring factions are tied to various towns and operational leaders in Northeastern Mexico and they are in a constant state of flux.

What: Thirteen vehicles—eight of which were in the process of being upgraded into armored vehicles (narco tanks). 

When: 4 February 2015.

Where: A winery on the Carretera Reynosa-Rio Bravo (located in the stretch of Federal highway number 2, towards Reynosa-Rio Bravo at the 74.8 kilometer mark), Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico - right across from the U.S. Border.

Why: Convoy escort and force protection duties to protect drug loads from being robbed by other criminal groups (opposing gangs, cartels, and rip off crews) while heading towards the U.S. 

Synopsis: Governmental authorities in Mexico had not reported finding armored vehicles in a couple of years. However, on February 4, 2015, members of the Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) and of the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) of Mexico discovered a winery on the Carretera Reynosa-Rio Bravo, where members of an organized crime group were manufacturing narco tanks. In one communication, SEDENA and the PGR explain that, in the interior of the winery, they found 13 vehicles—8 of which were being converted into narco tanks.

The seizure happened when members of SEDENA who were patrolling the area noticed a suspect who held military frequency radios capable of receiving local Army communications. Once the suspect realized he had been seen, he fled into the winery grounds, located in the stretch of Federal highway number 2, towards Reynosa-Rio Bravo at the 74.8 kilometer mark.

According to the authorities, throughout the winery grounds they found machines and materials for converting vehicles into narco tanks. Within the storage facility, authorities found a GMC truck with Texas license plates, a Chevrolet Avalanche truck with Texas license plates, a Ford F-150 with Texas license plates, and a Chevrolet Silverado with Texas license plates. There was also a black Mercedes Benz with Texas license plates. Some of the other vehicles seized had Tamaulipas license plates.   

In addition to the vehicles, the military found magazines for AK47s, 495 rounds of 7.62 x 39, 46 rounds of .308 Winchester, and four rounds of .50 Browning used in Barrett sniper rifles and M2 (Ma Deuce) machine guns.

This case is the second on the road known as La Riberena. In June of 2011, authorities took possession of another facility at Camargo, where the armored trucks known as “monsters” were being built. In the courtyards of the 8th Military zone in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, SEDENA has stored about fifty so-called “Monsters,” secured from different areas of the state.

Analysis: The 8 vehicles recovered by SEDENA and PGR were in the process of being given ballistic protection upgrades much like those used on governmental, private security, and corporate armored cars. It is worth noting that many of the vehicles had Texas license plates which suggests that they might have been used to carry product across the U.S.-Mexico border. Moreover, the vehicles found were relatively smaller than the ‘monster’ dump trucks from a few years ago.  This implies that crewmembers may be looking to use faster vehicles that enable them to elude rival groups and authorities.  While the vehicles were meant to remain somewhat stealthy (as opposed to the exterior armor appliques of the “monsters”), the upgrades were readily identifiable by viewing the armoring of the windows of the cabs (vision and firing ports were evident). From these firing stations crewmembers would have utilized assault rifles against opposing criminal group and governmental personnel.

Based on past cartel narco tank employment patterns, the .50 Cal rounds were likely meant for Barrett rifles used in an anti-vehicular and anti-personnel mode, however, given their size they would have had to have been mounted in the beds of the various trucks being armored. Current CDG access to such heavy sniper rifles is unknown but is probably limited due to the internecine fighting taking place between its former groups.

It is unlikely, but not improbable, that the much larger narco tanks—such as armored dump trucks—will once again be built in Mexico. For the foreseeable future, more stealthy (interior) armored vehicles can expected to be encountered from time-to-time in contested cartel plazas and states such as Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and Michoacán.

Significance: Cartel Armored Vehicles, Cartel Weaponry, CDG, Tamaulipas

Additional References:

La Redacción, “Aseguran taller artesanal de autos blindados en Tamaulipas.” Processo. 4 de Febrero de 2015, http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=395052.

“Ejército asegura taller clandestino de blindaje y 13 autos en Reynosa.” Vanguardia. 4 de febrero del 2015,

http://www.vanguardia.com.mx/ejercitoaseguratallerclandestinodeblindajey13autosenreynosa-2262772.html.

Gustavo Castillo, “Aseguran taller que blindaba autos de grupos criminales en Tamaulipas.” La Jornada. 04 feb 2015, http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/2015/02/04/aseguran-taller-que-blindaba-autos-de-grupos-criminales-en-tamaulipas-2930.html.

“Aseguran bodega en Tamaulipas donde bindaban autos.” La Cronica.com. O4/02/2015, http://www.lacronica.com/EdicionEnLinea/Notas/Nacional/04022015/938316-Aseguran-bodega-en-Tamaulipas-donde-blindaban-autos.html.

Further Reading:

Robert J. Bunker and Byron Ramirez, Editors, Narco Armor: Improvised Armored Fighting Vehicles in Mexico. Fort Leavenworth: Foreign Military Studies Office, October 2013,

http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/Collaboration/international/Mexico/Narco-Armor.pdf.

Patrick Corcoran, “’Narco-Tank’ Factory Found in North Mexico.” Insight Crime. 7 June 2011, http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/narco-tank-factory-found-in-north-mexico.

Categories: El Centro

Comments

mdkdowning

Sat, 02/14/2015 - 7:08pm

Regarding the info about cartridges found, it says in Spanish "Cuatro cartuchos calibre 50 mm" This is probably just a typo, but 50 mm would be almost 2 inches. It should say "Cuatro cartuchos calibre .50, or however you would translate .5 inches in Spanish. Also, shouldn't it say in the preceding statement "46 cartuchos de calibre .308, not 3.08?