Latin America: cartels build own arms industry

Yet more grim evidence emerged this week that Mexico's warring cartels are becoming a real military force and underground parallel state in the country's lawless northeast. Small Wars Journal on Feb. 13 noted a press release from the Mexican attorney general's office, the PGR, announcing that federal police and army troops had raided a winery near Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, where 13 vehicles were being fitted with armor plating. Small Wars Journal calls it a "narco-tank factory." A huge amount of ammunition was also confiscated in the raid, although it seems the people who were running the workshop all escaped. The PGR said they believe the makeshift factory was being run by the Gulf Cartel.

This isn't the first such find. The first such factory was busted in Tamaulipas in 2011. It is believed that the Gulf Cartel and its arch-rvals, Los Zetas, are in an arms race with each other. The two cartels have long been in a bitter struggle for control of the Tamaulipas "plaza" or sphere of operations, with regular shoot-outs in Reynosa, Matamoros and other border towns.

Ominously, AP reported Jan. 27 that Brazilian police had made a similar find in Sao Paulo—raiding a warehouse in the low-income district of Sacoma where two full-fledged military tanks were discovered. The tanks had apparently been auctioned off by the Brazilian armored vehicle manufacturer Engesa. "We are investigating who placed the winning bid," a police statement said.

We hope Brazil isn't following Mexico on the road to internal war fueled by the illegal drug trade.

Cross-post to High Times and Global Ganja Report