MONTERREY, Mexico – Army troops seized several armored vehicles at a garage in Tamaulipas, a state in northeast Mexico, where they were being constructed for the Gulf drug cartel, the 4th Military Region said Monday.
The vehicles were found following a shootout over the weekend that left two suspected gunmen dead.
The gunmen hid inside a garage in Camargo, a city on the border with the United States.
Two armored trucks, known as “monsters,” outfitted with 2.5-centimeter (one-inch) steel plates, two other partially completed trucks and 23 tractor-trailers awaiting modification were found in the garage.
The vehicles, which are used for patrols and smuggling drugs into the United States, have air conditioning, armored diesel engines and steel plates to protect occupants, the 4th Military Region said.
The armored trucks, which can only be taken out with 20 mm anti-tank grenades, are being used in the war between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control of the border region, the army said.
Armored trucks have been found in several Mexican states, including Zacatecas, Jalisco and Tamaulipas.
A total of 109 armored trucks have been seized from drug traffickers in Tamaulipas in the past few years, the 4th Military Region said.
Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon state have been rocked by a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
The violence intensified in the two border states after the appearance in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, in early 2010 of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels against Los Zetas.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas, considered Mexico’s most violent criminal organization, went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and nearly 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country’s cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations. EFE