Mexico’s Radio Tecnico: How The Zetas Cartel Took Over Mexico With Walkie-Talkies

Fascinating article in Popular Science on Radio Tecnico: How The Zetas Cartel Took Over Mexico With Walkie-Talkies
Inside the communications infrastructure of the ultraviolent syndicate

Why walkie-talkies? To enable communication even in locations without cellular service.

How Jose Luis Del Toro Estrada was tapped to develop the covert radio network also remains a mystery, but as his system grew, it supplied the Zetas with what’s called a command-and-control capacity. “It essentially linked all the different members of the cartel—the people doing the trafficking and the people doing the protection—so there was a communication between them,” says Pike, the DEA special agent. Armed with handheld radios, the cartel’s street-corner halcones, or hawks, could help commanders avoid arrest by alerting them whenever police set up checkpoints. A midlevel boss in Nuevo Laredo could monitor a semitruck carrying several tons of cocaine as it trundled across the border into Texas. Most crucially, Zetas gunmen could use the system to attack and seize plazas, or smuggling corridors, held by other drug gangs.


The Zetas’ military training and ultraviolent tactics were crucial for propelling their rise to power, but one other factor was essential: After splitting from the Gulf Cartel, it was the Zetas who maintained control of the radio network.

Read the whole thing.

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One Response to “Mexico’s Radio Tecnico: How The Zetas Cartel Took Over Mexico With Walkie-Talkies”

  1. jlh Says:

    This may not fit as a comment on your Zetas article, but the juxtaposition of that and the Seals book jogged a long-dormant memory about something I read many years ago about the inception of the British commandos–possibly the first, modern special-ops force and model for many others.
    They trained in techniques of ambush, assassination, etc. with exacting attention to detail. Example–when entering a conference room with high level targets you are going to kill, how do you assess the order of killing? Most are immobile with shock, but one man swears, one moves his hand, one appears to faint and slip under the table. First shoot the one who slips under the table because he could be getting out of range, to fight back, Second the man whose hand moved, because if it isn’t involuntary, he will be drawing a weapon. Third, the man who swore, because he has already recognized what is happening. Etc., etc.
    Now the fascinating part that these articles reminded me of. Before the unit began, the leaders-to-be consulted with all sorts of organizations with special skills. One group they studied closely for techniques of ambush, assassination and use of high capacity weapons (like the “Tommy Gun”) was the American Mafia–considered among the best at what they did.