Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #44: Mexican Army (SEDENA) Re-Discovers Underground Cartel Bunker in Reynosa, Tamaulipas

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 12:43am

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #44: Mexican Army (SEDENA) Re-Discovers Underground Cartel Bunker in Reynosa, Tamaulipas

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan

On Wednesday, 12 February 2020, elements of SEDENA, the Secretariat of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional), assigned to the Eighth Military Zone (Octava Zona Militar), in Colonia Vista Hermosa near Reynosa, Tamaulipas discovered an underground bunker used as a cartel support facility.  It is suspected that the underground warren has been operated by ‘Los Escorpiones’ (The Scorpions) a Gulf Cartel (Cártel del Golfo – CDG) enforcer cell.

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Interior of Underground Bunker with Burned Vehicle. Source: SEDENA.

Key Information: “Ubicaron en Tamaulipas un búnker del crimen organizado,” Infobae. 16 February 2020, https://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2020/02/17/ubicaron-en-tamaulipas-un-bunker-del-crimen-organizado/:

El refugio de “Los Escorpiones” división del Cártel del Golfo en Reynosa fue asegurado por elementos de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA…

Utilizado por el crimen organizado, un búnker fue descubierto por elementos de la Octava Zona Militar de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena) al poniente de Reynosa, Tamaulipas, en el que al interior encontraron a su vez un vehículo calcinado, así como un pozo de agua en el que se guardaba droga, además de arsenal, gorras de diferentes tallas y equipo operativo.

El personal documentó a través de un video que, en su mayoría, el escondite estaba hecho de hormigón, además de estar resguardado por un portón de acero tras el que se encontró una camioneta incendiándose, en medio del amplio espacio del subterráneo clandestino…

El reporte de la amplitud del lugar arrojó que éste mide 70 metros de largo por seis de ancho y dos metros y medio de altura, en el que también se encontraron casquillos de diferentes calibres, hallazgo que se antojaba casi inesperado en medio de una colonia llamada Vista Hermosa, en un camino de apariencia totalmente vecinal que se encuentra casi hacia la salida de Monterrey.

Key Information: “VIDEO: Sedena localiza un búnker usado por el narco para ocultar vehículos en Reynosa, Tamaulipas.” Sin Embargo. 16 February 2020, https://www.sinembargo.mx/16-02-2020/3731990:

Ciudad de México 16 febrero (SinEmbargo).- La Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (Sedena)informó que en Reynosa, Tamaulipas fue descubierto un búnker subterráneo utilizado aparentemente para ocultar vehículos del crimen organizado.

El búnker de concreto que permanecía oculto a las inspecciones aéreas gracias a los matorrales que lo cubren, fue localizado por elementos de la octava Zona Militar, quienes hallaron el acceso a través de una brecha.

La construcción tiene una altura de dos metros y medio con 70 metros de largo por 6 de ancho, en su interior se localizaron evidencias de disparos de armas de fuego, un vehículo incendiado, cartuchos y cascos en el piso, de acuerdo a los primeros reportes.

El hallazgo ocurrió el miércoles 12 de febrero, sin embargo fue hasta hoy cuando la dependencia lo dió a conocer.

Key Information: Miguel Domínguez, “Hallan militares búnker en Reynosa.” Reforma.16 February 2020, https://www.reforma.com/hallan-militares-bunker-en-reynosa/ar1876123:

Un búnker subterráneo que aparentemente era usado para ocultar vehículos del crimen organizado fue descubierto por elementos de la Octava Zona Militar, en Reynosa. 

La Sedena detalló que el búnker está hecho totalmente de concreto, mide 70 metros de largo, por 6 de ancho y tiene una altura de 2 metros y medio.

Cuenta con una rampa descendente. El acceso se realiza a través de una brecha y permanece oculto a las inspecciones aéreas gracias a varios matorrales que cubren la construcción.

Key Information: Ildefonso Ortiz and Brandon Darby, “Mexican Army ‘Finds’ Previously Discovered Border City Cartel Bunker.” Breitbart {Cartel Chronicles). 17 February 2020, https://www.breitbart.com/border/2020/02/17/mexican-army-finds-previously-discovered-border-city-cartel-bunker/:

The Mexican Army announced the discovery of a large bunker near the border with Texas. However, said bunker was previously discovered in 2018 and was only used to store damaged vehicles.

Mexico’s Army announced the discovery on Sunday with a news release and video featuring a group of soldiers walking cautiously toward the structure and entering a dark tunnel with flashlights. Inside, authorities only found a burned-out SUV and spent bullet casings. They also witnessed makeshift road spikes strewn along the entrance.

That same bunker in the Vista Hermosa neighborhood of Reynosa was previously been discovered in February 2018 during a raid that uncovered Claymore mines, two Barrett .50 caliber rifles, trucks with stolen fuel, and several other weapons. The structure was built to hide armored vehicles and other combat materials but sat unused in recent months.

Who:  Gulf Cartel/Cártel del Golfo (CDG), ‘Los Escorpiones’ (The Scorpions) enforcer cell (suspected).

What: Underground bunker (tunnel).

When: Wednesday, 12 February 2020; Announced Sunday, 16 February 2020.

Where:  Colonia Vista Hermosa, Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Why: Cartel support facility.

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Entrance to Underground Bunker/Cartel Support Facility.  Source: SEDENA

Analysis

SEDENA discovered an abandoned underground bunker (tunnels) in Reynosa, Tamaulipas used by a Cártel del Golfo (CDG) enforcer group known as ‘Los Escorpiones’ (The Scorpions).[1] The underground bunker is reported to be constructed of concrete and measures 70 meters long, 6 meters wide, and 2.5 meters high.  The bunker was abandoned.  A burnt out vehicle, helmets, and ammunition cartridges were found within the space.[2]

This type of underground bunker as a logistical and operational support facility is a known cartel TTP, employed by the CDG and other factions in that region with past bunkers reportedly used by the CDG. In fact, this specific bunker was previously interdicted by SEDENA in February 2018. At that time, Claymore mines, Barrett .50 caliber rifles, fuel, and support vehicles were found.[3]

These types of underground logistical and operational support facilities are often related to fuel theft (known as the huachicol trade) and illicit petroleum taps.[4]  The underground operational environment is complex, contains numerous performance decrements, and operational hazards.[5]  These subterranean spaces—narcotúneles (narco-tunnels) and huachitúneles (tunnels utilized for illicit fuel taps known as tomas clandestinas)—are an entrenched component of criminalized operational spaces and demand the development of countermeasures for police and military counter-cartel operations.

As of yet, the booby-trapping of these facilities by the cartels and associated armed gangs has not been reported. Given the prevalence of defensive (fragmentation) grenades in the arsenals of these criminal actors which can easily be utilized for such purposes—via ‘wire trip lines’ and other methods—such potentials must now be actively considered and incorporated into federal policing and SEDENA tunnel entry and search protocols.

Significance: Cártel del Golfo (CDG), confined space operations, crime wars, Los Escorpiones (The Scorpions), Gulf Cartel, huachicol (huachicoleros), huachitúneles, narcotúneles, narco-tunnels, Reynosa, subterranean spaces, Tamaulipas, tunnel warfare, underground operations, underground warfare, urban operations, urban warfare.

Sources

Miguel Domínguez, “Hallan militares búnker en Reynosa.” Reforma. 16 February 20202, https://www.reforma.com/hallan-militares-bunker-en-reynosa/ar1876123.

Ildefonso Ortiz and Brandon Darby, “Mexican Army ‘Finds’ Previously Discovered Border City Cartel Bunker.” Breitbart (Cartel Chronicles). 17 February 2020, https://www.breitbart.com/border/2020/02/17/mexican-army-finds-previously-discovered-border-city-cartel-bunker/.

“Military underground bunker found in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.” EN24 News. 16 February 2020, https://m.en24.news/A/2020/02/military-underground-bunker-found-in-reynosa-tamaulipas.html.

“Ubicaron en Tamaulipas un búnker del crimen organizado,” Infobae. 16 February 2020, https://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2020/02/17/ubicaron-en-tamaulipas-un-bunker-del-crimen-organizado/.

“VIDEO: Sedena localiza un búnker usado por el narco para ocultar vehículos en Reynosa, Tamaulipas.” Sin Embargo. 16 February 2020, https://www.sinembargo.mx/16-02-2020/3731990.

End Notes

[1] “Ubicaron en Tamaulipas un búnker del crimen organizado,” Infobae. 16 February 2020, https://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2020/02/17/ubicaron-en-tamaulipas-un-bunker-del-crimen-organizado/.

[2] “Military underground bunker found in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.” EN24 News. 16 February 2020, https://m.en24.news/A/2020/02/military-underground-bunker-found-in-reynosa-tamaulipas.html.

[3] Ildefonso Ortiz and Brandon Darby, “Mexican Army ‘Finds’ Previously Discovered Border City Cartel Bunker.” Brietbart (Cartel Chronicles). 17 February 2020, https://www.breitbart.com/border/2020/02/17/mexican-army-finds-previously-discovered-border-city-cartel-bunker/ and Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #36: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mines (Minas Antipersonales) Recovered in Reynosa, Tamaulipas,” Small Wars Journal. 21 February 2018, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-36-claymore-anti-personnel-mines-minas-antipersonales.

[4] See Nathan P. Jones and John P. Sullivan, “Huachicoleros: Criminal Cartels, Fuel Theft, and Violence in Mexico.” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 12, no. 4, 2019,  pp 1-24, https://doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.12.4.1742.

[5] John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #40: Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) Tunnels in Guanajuato Highlights Tactical Considerations in Underground Operations.” Small Wars Journal. 22 March 2019, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-40-cartel-santa-rosa-de-lima-csrl-tunnels-guanajuato.

Further Reading

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #36: Claymore Anti-Personnel Mines (Minas Antipersonales) Recovered in Reynosa, Tamaulipas,” Small Wars Journal. 21 February 2018.

John P. Sullivan, “SWJ Book Review – “Underground Warfare.” Small Wars Journal. 21 September 2018.

Daphné Richemond-Barak, Underground Warfare. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #40: Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) Tunnels in Guanajuato Highlights Tactical Considerations in Underground Operations.” Small Wars Journal. 22 March 2019.

John Spencer, “War Books: Preparing for Underground Warfare,” Modern War Institute, 12 February 2020.

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an adjunct research professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. He has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at docbunker@smallwarsjournal.com .   

Dr. John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California. Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” He can be reached at jpsullivan@smallwarsjournal.com.