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Mexican Gov't Shuts Down Zetas' Secret Cell Network 300

Posted by timothy
from the misallocation-writ-very-very-large dept.
Miniaturized stealth submarines purpose-built for smuggling are an impressive example of how much technological ingenuity is poured into evading the edicts of contemporary drug prohibition. Even more impressive to me, though, is news of the communications network that was just shut down by Mexican authorities, which covered much of northern Mexico. The system is attributed to the Zetas drug cartel, and consisted of equipment in four Mexican border states. "The military confiscated more than 1,400 radios, 2,600 cell phones and computer equipment during the operation, as well as power supplies including solar panels, according the Defense Department," says the article. Too bad — a solar-powered, visually unobtrusive, encrypted cell network sounds like something I'd like to sign up for. NPR also has a story.
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Mexican Gov't Shuts Down Zetas' Secret Cell Network

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  • by CmdrPony (2505686) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @06:42PM (#38253068)
    If US would just let its citizen get high.
    • Even if it is legal there will be people like the Zetas. They will simply sell it cheaper than other companies and pocket the almost 100% profit. A good example of this is moonshine. If legalising something would do away with all illegal trade in that item moonshine should not exist. Another example is black market cigarettes purchased by people to get around paying taxes on them. Do you not think the government would tax marijuana. And if you only legalised marijuana the Zetas would be around to stil
      • by lgw (121541) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @08:46PM (#38253850) Journal

        If General Mills made cocaine, a 10-pound bag would be $5 at the supermarket, and the Zetas wouldn't have money for tech toys or automatic weapons.

        Moonshine still exists because stills are still illegal! What, did you think it was legal to make your own brandy and drink it yourself? That's crazy talk.

      • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:21PM (#38254056)
        How many people are seriously buying black market cigarettes? Yes, there will still be a small black market for the product, but it will be so incredibly small as to be negligible. No cartel will form selling black market drugs if drugs are legalized. You'll have a few small drug dealers making very little money from it.
        • Define black market. If by that term you mean goods being sold without government oversight and taxation, then you'd be AMAZED at the extent of black market cigarettes. Or aren't you aware of the phenomenon of buying smokes on the nearest First Nations Reserve? If cannabis were legalized, it'd be tempting beyond the power of the various legislatures to resist to tax the hell out of it. (As is already being done with tobacco and alcohol in many places) Once the taxes start getting onerous, it becomes profita
        • by swalve (1980968)
          Cigarettes are over $10 a pack in NYC, and approaching that in Chicago. That's a couple million smokers, looking for a deal.
      • by khallow (566160)

        Even if it is legal there will be people like the Zetas. They will simply sell it cheaper than other companies and pocket the almost 100% profit.

        I don't understand why you think that. Where's the Zetas in the fast food business? Gas stations? Cigarettes? Legal businesses would dominate because they don't need to maintain armies and fight wars. They don't need to maintain their own secret cell network. The tax on marijuana can be rather high before smuggling makes sense economically.

      • by swalve (1980968)
        Many of the moonshine states have very high taxes on liquor, and/or prohibitive access methods. I can go to the store and buy a gallon of serviceable vodka for $20, almost any time of the day. Try that in a bible belt state.
  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @06:45PM (#38253080)
    Stealth submarines, solar powered call communications networks, encrypted communications. They are equipped like a damn government.
    • I wish I had some of this stuff laying around. Solar panel powered OpenBTS network/USRP might be possible on a very small scale, but not the fcuking submarines
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gedankenhoren (2001086) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @07:17PM (#38253318)
      "They are equipped like a damn government."

      (see Mancur Olson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mancur_Olson
      "In his final book, Power and Prosperity, Olson distinguished between the economic effects of different types of government, in particular, tyranny, anarchy and democracy. Olson argued that a "roving bandit" (under anarchy) has an incentive only to steal and destroy, whilst a "stationary bandit" (a tyrant) has an incentive to encourage a degree of economic success, since he will expect to be in power long enough to take a share of it. The stationary bandit thereby takes on the primordial function of government - protection of his citizens and property against roving bandits.")
      • by timeOday (582209)
        The sad part Mexico really is/was all they way up there at Democracy. Perhaps a bit less so each day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Stealth submarines, solar powered call communications networks, encrypted communications. They are equipped like a damn government.

      Since a government basically is defined by who is in control a territory, and these guys clearly are in pretty good control of central America, I'd argue that they are a government.

      Walks like, quacks like etc.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @08:16PM (#38253690) Journal

      Stealth submarines, solar powered call communications networks, encrypted communications. They are equipped like a damn government.

      Their founders, and a nontrivial number of their more serious members, aren't just equipped like a government...

      Back in the late '90s, the Gulf cartel wanted to cull some of their more irritating competitors. Sensibly enough, they hired a number of Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales guys with counterinsurgency, communications, and assorted other handy special forces skills(a somewhat embarrassing number of whom were trained on Uncle Sam's dime at the School of the Americas, in an attempt to improve Mexico's anti-drug capabilities. Oops.)

      They've suffered some rather violent togetherness issues with the Gulf cartel more recently and their founders suffered pretty dramatic attrition; but their enthusiasm for military specialists from various Latin American states, and putting their professional skills to flagrantly bloody use continues to the present...

    • by timeOday (582209)
      The narco insurgency has a much wealthier "tax base" than the legitimate government of Mexico. Our dirty money is overturning that nation. It's horrible.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 03, 2011 @07:21PM (#38253338)

    At least a couple of guys in this zeta thing is far from being a thug.

    I mean.. entire fucking cell networks... submarines and shit. You gotta give some credit to them for that.

    Yes, hanging severed heads from traffic signs ain't cool, but they have a pretty nice amount of technology.

    They should tell this guys there's great climate for planting coca on mars and we'll be there next month.

  • "... A solar-powered, visually unobtrusive, encrypted cell network sounds like something I'd like to sign up for..."

    If someone built such a network stateside, it would take two months tops for someone to start screaming that it was there in order to distribute child pornography. You'd be totally villified over the next few months, so that by the time your trial came up, "they" might just as well take you out and shoot you.

  • They acomplish their strong communications network thanks to money, corruption and kidnapping of engineers.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Kidnapping? Why?

      Are engineers somehow 'better' people than politicians or law enforcement so that they can't simply be bought? I'd venture a guess that anyone willing to pay a premium over the going wage can probably find enough engineers willing to do the work.

  • by stoicfaux (466273) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @08:02PM (#38253584)

    Given the levels of organization, sophistication, business savvy, and ruthlessness needed to run a modern day, world wide drug organization, why haven't they gone legit and taken over Mexico's politics? Seriously, at some point it just be easier to influence the Mexican government into passing laws that legalize drugs and turn Mexico into a legitimate drug clearing house for the world.

    I leave it up to an economist/historian to point to relevant examples in History where the only way to increase the profit of an illegal market was to legalize the market.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blakecraw (1235302)
      They'd probably rather be at war with the Mexican government than the US government.
    • by ZankerH (1401751)
      Because that would give us an excuse for a conventional military strike against them. As long as what they're doing is illegal, they can pretend to be petty gangsters to be dealt with by local law enforcement. Do you really think the our politicians would sit on their hands if the drug cartels tried to seize power and pretend to be a real country?
    • by Arker (91948) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @09:49PM (#38254192) Homepage

      The LAST thing a drug cartel wants to see is an end to prohibition. Legalising their products would simply open them up to legitimate competitors and bring the prices (and thus the profit margins) way down.

      In fact the cartels have quite a bit of influence with various officials at all levels in Mexico, but the last thing they would use this influence for would be legalisation. Instead they are used to direct law enforcement against their competitors and away from themselves, to reÃnforce their monopoly position and keep raking in the profits.

  • Bad move (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Saturday December 03, 2011 @08:48PM (#38253862)

    Rather than shutting it down, why not tap into it?

    Tomorrow, when the Zeta pick up their mobiles and get a 'No Carrier' message, they'll start working on the next network. Better to have them yak away while the Mexican and US gov't listen in. Yeah, they still use codes. But being able to do the traffic analysis is a whole lot better than having no clue of who is speaking, where, and when.

    Heck, maybe we can even get CarrierIQ to push an update to their phones.

  • Miniaturized stealth submarines purpose-built for smuggling are an impressive example of how much technological ingenuity is poured into evading the edicts of contemporary drug prohibition.

    To say nothing of the infrared detecting devices, footstep detectors, UAVs, and more. Technological advancement is fueled by this cashflow. But, then, that is just another way of saying that this productive ingenuity is being consumed by a questionably productive sector of the economy. How much does it really benefit us t

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      To be fair, the 'miniaturized stealth submarines' are every bit as cutting edge as something you might find post-Civil War. Most of them aren't even submarines, but rather have a sealed top that sits a foot or so above the surface. Those that are fully submersible operate on snorkels, with no air-independent propulsion. They are 'stealth' merely by the fact that they are so flat against the surface waves, meaning it gets lost among the noise on RADAR and active SONAR.
  • by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @12:46AM (#38255014) Homepage

    From The Onion:

    April 13, 2005
    DEA Seizes Half-Built Suspension Bridge From Bogotá To Miami
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/dea-seizes-halfbuilt-suspension-bridge-from-bogota,9607/ [theonion.com]

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