Monday, December 19, 2011

Mexico Drug Cartels Kidnap Telecommunication Workers to Build Private Phone Networks

Via NPR (Dec 9th, 2011) -

The Mexican military has recently broken up several secret telecommunications networks that were built and controlled by drug cartels so they could coordinate drug shipments, monitor their rivals and orchestrate attacks on the security forces.

A network that was dismantled just last week provided cartel members with cellphone and radio communications across four northeastern states. The network had coverage along almost 500 miles of the Texas border and extended nearly another 500 miles into Mexico's interior.

Soldiers seized 167 antennas, more than 150 repeaters and thousands of cellphones and radios that operated on the system. Some of the remote antennas and relay stations were powered with solar panels.

In announcing the operation, a spokesman for the Mexican army in Monterrey, Maj. Margarito Mendez Guijon, said the clandestine system allowed organized criminals to communicate throughout all of northeast Mexico.


Kidnappings Linked To Technical Needs

Stewart says these networks are relatively simple to build and often use commercially available equipment. But the Zetas still needed technicians and engineers to design, construct and maintain their system.

And it appears that they got at least some of this expertise through kidnappings.

Over the past two years, at least 13 cellphone network technicians have been abducted in northeastern Mexico. None of them have returned alive. Two radio communication specialists working for the state-run oil company Pemex disappeared in 2010 and were later found dead. The other 11 remain missing.

In the northeastern state of Coahuila, Blanca Martinez works with a support group for family members of the disappeared. She says in 2009, a group of Nextel technicians who were repairing cell towers in Tamaulipas were abducted from their hotel. Martinez says it wasn't a normal kidnapping.

She says there has never been a ransom demand in any of the cases involving telecommunications workers. Martinez says this is quite unusual in kidnappings. Wives of several missing Nextel workers say they believe their husbands are still being forced to work for the cartels.

No comments:

Post a Comment