|This homemade "tank," or armored personnel carrier (APC)|
can carry 12 people and travel as fast as 68 miles per hour.
I guess this isn't terribly surprising, or frightening, but it's good to know. I think there's a pretty obvious pattern here. The cartels are increasingly working hard to improve their technological, tactical, and vehicular abilities over the last few years, and they've demonstrated that they will continue to make advances in these areas. Doing this is not as difficult as it might sound. The Tamil Tigers, rebels who struggled against the majority Sinhalese Sri Lankan government for nearly 30 years, were able to put together an operational air force that conducted many successful attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is an island nation with a decent amount of control over its own waterways, which makes smuggling aircraft onto the island a fairly difficult task, yet the Tigers were able to achieve that quite successfully. There were even rumors that they had smuggled in 10 unassembled Czech fighter jets, though I don't think they were ever fully assembled.
|This prop-powered airplane was used as a bomber by the Tamil Tigers Air|
Now, this is based entirely on my perception, but I would imagine that funding for the cartels is much better than the Tigers' funding, and smuggling is what they do. I don't think it would be difficult at all for them to get a MIG-21, or some other fighter jet into Mexico for their own use. And, that would be the easy method. If you're familiar with the Zetas, then you know that they originated from Mexican special forces who went corrupt, defected, and started offering violent services to the highest bidder. Once they figured out that they were more powerful and tactically proficient than anyone else, they started their own cartel and cleaned up. Like special forces, Mexico also has an Air Force. Is it conceivable that the same corruption that pried members of those special forces from their posts in service of their nation could also pull some aircraft into the hands of the cartels for illicit use? I think so. I don't think it would be very difficult at all for any of the cartels to acquire fighter jets, military transports, or bombers. The only question is, would such an action bring down more heat than they're looking for? While some Americans, including a few federal agents, have been killed in the violence, the cartels don't tend to target Americans for fear of greater involvement on our part. That makes sense. Likewise, if we found out that they were using jet fighters to shoot down other aircraft, or conduct bombing runs on rival cartels, I believe we feel compelled to lend our aid to the Mexican government in subduing said aircraft. Or, maybe not. That line of thought hasn't stopped them from building APCs.
I can't predict the future, but I believe the cartels will continue to upgrade their fighting abilities, and they will continue to do everything they can to garner power and influence in the region. As much as I hate to see violence, corruption, and crime overtaking any nation, this all becomes even more relevant when it's happening in a nation that shares a border with us. These events have affected our national security, and they will continue to do so unless something changes. It'll be interesting to see if the US or Mexican governments make any big changes in the near future, or if we'll just continue to let things escalate.
Only time will tell.