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A crane moves one of the confiscated armored vehicles. A crane moves one of the confiscated armored vehicles. FGR

Army destroys 23 armored vehicles seized from crime gangs

The vehicles exhibited a range of armor-plating, from makeshift to professional

Federal authorities on Sunday destroyed 23 makeshift armored vehicles that were confiscated from organized crime groups.

The federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) collaborated with the army to destroy the improvised fighting vehicles, or narco-tanks, at FGR facilities in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.

The FGR said the destruction of the so-called monstruos (monsters) occurred in accordance with the National Criminal Procedures Code, which specifies that “objects that are instruments of crime” can be destroyed.

“The destruction event … is related to 13 [criminal investigation] files drawn up in the period between March and June of the current year,” the FGR said in a statement, adding that the 23 vehicles had “handcrafted armor-plating” and were “monstruos allegedly used by people belonging to organized crime.”

Confiscated armored vehicles.
Confiscated armored vehicles. FGR

The army has seized a total of 630 armored vehicles from organized crime since 2018, including 66 with blindaje artesanal, or improvised armor-plating.

A National Defense Ministry (Sedena) report shows that such confiscations have increased in recent years, reaching 184 in 2020 — a 130% increase compared to 2018 — before declining slightly to 172 last year.

Over one-third of the 630 vehicles — 231 — were seized in Tamaulipas, where the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas are involved in a turf war. Michoacán — currently Mexico’s second most violent state in terms of homicides — ranks second with 88 seizures of armored vehicles from organized crime since 2018. Most confiscations in that state occurred in the Tierra Caliente region, especially the municipality of Tecalcatepec.

Narco-tanks have been seized in Michoacán from both the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and Los Viagras, which are fighting each other in Tierra Caliente. The CJNG has also used improvised explosive devices, or artisanal mines, in the region.

Jalisco ranks third for armored vehicle seizures with 27 in the past 4 1/2 years, including five with blindaje artesanal. The National Guard confiscated one monstruo in the municipality of Jamay in April after finding it in a semi-trailer.

In July last year, authorities located a factory in Tuxpan, Jalisco, where vehicles were converted into narco-tanks by armoring them with bulletproof steel plates. Authorities also confiscated weapons and ammunition at the factory, which was allegedly operated by the CJNG.

The cartel’s armoring efforts have apparently been assisted by three employees of a vehicle armoring company who were kidnapped by armed men in Tlaquepaque last year. According to Jalisco officials cited by the newspaper Milenio, the victims were released after a period of three days during which they gave armoring tutorials to cartel members. The company at which the men worked later closed after receiving a series of threats, Milenio said.

With reports from El Universal and Milenio

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