They have an operational organization equal to an armed force, a lot of money and popular consent which translates into political choices favorable to their activities. A mix of conditions that makes their eradication difficult. I'm talking about the Narcos Mexicans who operate on the territory of Latin America and in the many villages where they are considered a real institution more credible than the ordinary one. A mafia concept that inspires fear and silence, capable of giving answers to the most disadvantaged population in exchange for collaboration and absolute reverence. Anyone who goes against the tide is simply killed.
For the Narcos there is no money problem as the production of cocaine and its trade are remunerated with suitcases full of dollars; a well-stocked and always alert para-military organization. The user of the substance does not have an identikit, the global demand is enormous and one wonders if all this is ultimately not convenient.
They can plan to lose an entire load to pass a much more abundant one by trusting in criminal collaborations on the payroll even in the institutions. These are organizations that have adapted to the change in the global market and, in Mexico, challenge the police with armored modifications of traditional vehicles.
The armored vehicles
Even if the vehicles for the transport of large quantities of cocaine follow different routes from the usual traffic, the risk of being intercepted by the police and the regular army is very high. The vehicles chosen to modify the external structure are mainly pick-ups and trucks – Toyota, GMC and Ford – with high powers, however elaborated in the supercharging pressure.
It takes 70 days to disguise a vehicle and make it a Monster Truck capable of withstanding police bullets or roadblocks. In workshops built in remote areas or in compliant businesses, the work of six workers is needed to set up a vehicle according to the standards that the cartel deems most congenial. Mechanics, engine builders and welders install oblique steel plates on the sides, turrets and even bulletproof glass and tyres. As on "ordinary" armored vehicles, spaces are created for the guns, from which it is possible to respond by shooting with machine guns and RPGs. This is what Mexico City's ballistics and armaments expert Jorge Septién tells us.
There are not many cartels but they are divided into various "families" which, in turn, are distinguished by ethics, market spaces and sectors in the supply of cocaine, they use a sort of Stan Ag. That is, a signature on their vehicles masked and painted in camouflage military livery so as to make them difficult to intercept in the forests and above all to distinguish from official military vehicles.
The police call them narcotanques o Rinocerontes and to build a truck the costs for the cartels are around two million pesos, 117 dollars. The final result must also inspire awe due to the imposing dimensions, making it clear the degree of "power" that the specific family of the underworld possesses.
The use of armored vehicles probably testifies to a change of strategy of the narcos who, until a decade ago, preferably followed other channels for the transfer of drugs. The militarization of cartels follows the involvement of military units in the illicit market also as advice for the appropriate armoring of vehicles. On the attention to detail in the modification of civilian platforms, the "Small Wars Journal" reports that: these armored vehicles far exceed the standard armaments of the Mexican police. The statement comes from an authoritative source, Romain Le Cour Grandmaison, an expert at the GI-TOC, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.
A thriving market for armored cars
We talked about operational guidance by explaining behavior techniques and the psycho-physical condition of the operators on board. One thing is certain when you find yourself under enemy fire, perhaps of large caliber: you must immediately move without trusting the temporal resistance of the armor. For several years now, the crime rate in Mexico has forced businessmen, politicians and entrepreneurs to rent protected cars or even buy them. A context where almost any vehicle can be armored, even a flaming Ferrari or Porsche.
80% of armored vehicle rentals are reserved for the private sector, while for owned vehicles, in addition to their original cost, the outfitting figures start from 30.000 to 100.000 dollars. The substantial difference is in the level of protection that can be associated with the specific vehicle model. However, the security achieved will never be equal to cars already armored on the assembly line such as the Mercedes S Guard, Audi A8 L Security (there is also the Q8), Jaguar XJ Sentinel or Range Rover. The classifications include the "lighter" B4 which only offer a greater sense of security but, in Mexico City, the 50 caliber is also shot and explosives are used. So the ideal would be a much higher level, the most sought-after B6, or B7.
According to the press, the percentage of probability of emerging unscathed from an attack in Mexico is not very encouraging. Ad hoc would be the military armored vehicles, however, produced only for the states and not for private citizens. In Latin America, television commercials also promote armored vehicles as an option to traditional vehicles.
Balance sheets and feuds
The war caused by drugs counts, among injured, dead, disappeared and displaced persons, record figures. No war between criminal groups has ever done similar numbers hitting journalists, institutions and apparatuses of order and security as happens in Latin America.
There were 235.000 drug-related homicides from 2006 to 2017, 33.000 generic homicides in 2018 and, a thousand more in 2019: 94 deaths per day, one every quarter of an hour. The numerous armored vehicles of the narcos are equipped with short and long weapons, machine guns, grenades and explosive devices similar to those used in Iraq.