The Drones of Mexico

Whether legally or illegally, more drones are piercing Mexican airspace. Joining Tijuana in the club of drones, Chihuahua state is expected to deploy the technology soon for law enforcement purposes.

Chihuahua State Prosecutor Jorge Gonzalez Nicolas told the local press this month that his agency has acquired four drones which will be assigned to each of the corresponding sub-divisions of the state prosecutor’s office, including the branch located in the border city of Ciudad Juarez. According to Gonzalez, the unmanned aircraft will buzz the sky once personnel are thoroughly trained to operate them.

While the Mexican law enforcement official did not specify the cost or origin of the drones, he did describe the machines’ capabilities.

“These drones have cameras that send us an image in real time and an x-ray apparatus for telling how many people are inside a building, thanks to the emissions of body heat,” Gonzalez said.

The drones will be linked to a new telecommunications network (built with U.S. assistance) that is being constructed across the state and coordinated by emergency response and state law enforcement headquarters in Chihuahua City.

Nationally, security agencies already using drones include the Mexican Defense Ministry, the national intelligence agency CISEN and the Mexican Navy, which reportedly has manufactured its own drone software and developed a model craft. Overall, the Mexican market for drones jumped seven times from 2013 to 2014,  Mario Aurelio Gonzalez,  director and founder of the private company HelioBoss Latinoamerica, said earlier this year.

In May Tijuana’s police premiered their three drones, which resemble small helicopters, at the city’s annual Cinco de Mayo parade. Following the festivities, the drones patrolled the border city’s historic downtown. Last month, Eduardo Hernandez Velez, public safety chief for the Baja California city of Ensenada, announced that his agency would acquire three drones of its own.

The Mexico City daily El Universal, meanwhile, recently ran a piece about the use of drones for drug smuggling.  El Universal reported that drones packed with illegal drugs have flown across the Mexico-U.S. border since at least 2011.

Citing an unnamed source from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the article said numerous, large shipments of cocaine and other drugs have been transported across the border, with some seizures made by U.S. law enforcement authorities.

Foreign-made drones used to transport drugs, mainly of Israeli manufacture, were purportedly replaced by Mexican-made ones this year. According to El Universal, both U.S. and Mexican drug law enforcement officials suspect the drones are being assembled in Mexico City, Queretaro, Guadalajara, and the state of Nuevo Leon, which includes the large industrial city of Monterrey.

The drones are among technological innovations employed in drug trafficking, including ultra-light aircraft, sophisticated underground tunnels and submarines.

Quoted by El Universal, a U.S. attorney and drug war observer identified as John Davidson, characterized the drones as the “perfect mules,” since the pilotless aircraft can be operated with far less personal risk to smugglers and even re-used to transport the profits of illicit enterprise back across the border to Mexico.

Sources: El Universal, July 9, 2014.  El Diario de Juarez, July 4, 2014. Article by Luz del Carmen Sosa., June 8, 2014.  Article by Karla Lorena Lamas. Reforma, May 7, 2014. La Jornada/Notimex, April 9, 2014. El Financiero/Notimex, February 16, 2014.


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