Mexican drug cartel sets up telecoms
Members of the Mexican Navy stand guard over telecommunications equipment confiscated from drug cartels during a media presentation in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, Mexico on September 8, 2011.
A major Mexican drug cartel reportedly has its own communications system inside the country, which allows it to coordinate drug deliveries, human trafficking, kidnappings, extortion, and other instances of criminality.
The network, which covers most of Mexico's 31 states and parts of northern Guatemala, was first set up around 2006 under the orders of the top leaders in the Gulf cartel -- a narcotics-trafficking gang. For the purpose of establishing the nexus, the group hired a number of enforcers known as the Zetas, who had defected from the Mexican Army's special forces' division.
The Zetas split from the Gulf cartel in 2010 and have since become one of the country's most feared drug cartels, besides taking possession of the network.
The far-ranging and sophisticated infrastructure provides a means of communication for the cartels with the immediacy and precision characterizing a modern military or law enforcement agency.
"They're doing what any sensible military unit would do," said Robert Killebrew, a retired US Army colonel, who has studied the Mexican drug cartels for the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank. "They're branching out into as many forms of communications as possible."
Amid a crackdown on drug cartels, the Mexican Army said it had seized at least 167 antennas, 155 repeaters, 166 power sources, 71 pieces of computer equipment, and 1,446 radios in several cities in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz as well as the northern states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, and Tamaulipas on December 4.
Mexico has, in recent years, been plagued by drug-related violence.
More than 35,000 people have been killed in the country since President Felipe Calderon began deploying federal police and troops to some regions in December 2006 to fight drug traffickers. Other sources put the death toll at around 40,000 or 45,000.