Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Narco-Uniforms Mark Authority in Mexico

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 |

A video released by Mexican blog Videos Policiacos, which tracks drug violence in a similar vein as Blog del Narco and Diario del Narco, examines the range of uniforms and insignias used by Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs).
Written by Elyssa Pachico
insightcrime


As the video shows, many of the uniforms used by DTO members are almost indistinguishable replicas of those used by federal or municipal police. Wearing such gear is understandably attractive for gang members, as it allows them to blend in and conduct robberies, kidnappings, or killings with impunity. Official uniforms can confuse victims and inspire compliance, as may have occured during the fatal shooting of U.S. agent Jaime Zapata, after he and his partner were possibly forced to stop at a false checkpoint which was in fact run by the deadly and unpredictable Zetas criminal gang.

As recently as April 4, authorities found a cache of false police uniforms used by the "Knights Templar" (Caballeros Templares), the new incarnation of the Familia Michoacana. The seized goods, which appear about 14 seconds into the video, included baseball hats branded with the Knights Templar logo: a crusader wearing typical medieval gear, a white robe marked with a red cross. The insignia is clearly meant to evoke the Familia's quasi-religious ideology, and their "crusade" to rid Michoacan of their hated rivals, the Zetas.

As indicated by the Familia case, the usage of such insignia to mark a DTO's identity can be powerful propaganda tools. Another Familia Michoacana logo in the video uses eagles, a classic symbol of Mexican nationalism. A gold-plated logo that appears to represent a "Commander Shark" (Comandante Tiburon) of the Gulf Cartel depicts a shark popping out of Tamaulipas, the cartel's stronghold. Uniform insignia can also mark different levels of rank, which can work as a powerful recruitment tool.

Other DTO insignia have developed new meanings over time, sometimes unintentionally. The classic Gulf Cartel logo depicts Mexico, Tamaulipas state, and a "Z" sign to represent the Zetas, the group's former armed wing. Since then, however, the Zetas have split from the Gulf Cartel and Tamaulipas has become one of the most hotly contested states in Mexico, no longer the undisputed territory of Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias "El Coss," and his allies.

It is significant that Mexican DTOs are still leaning towards using uniforms marking their identity, in contrast to Colombia, where most DTOs prefer to operate in civilian wear. The usage of uniforms grants Mexican groups visible signs of authority, and essentially presents them as the parallel power operating alongside the state. Using police or military uniforms as a disguise also allows the Mexican DTOs to assert a certain level of social control. By electing to use law enforcement gear, the DTOs are positioning themselves as the enforcers of law and disorder in certain states.

In contrast, the usage of uniforms in Colombia is more associated with the reign of the paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia(Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC). The paramilitaries used uniforms to present themselves as an organized, hierarchal group with stated political goals. The current generation of Colombian DTOs, however, is now working out of uniform, making it more difficult for the security forces to identify and track these groups.

Uniforms in Colombia therefore appear to pose a risk, whereas in Mexico it still grants authority. Mexican groups have already built up their authority by corrupting and intimidating the security forces and the government: police, soldiers, mayors, judges, lawyers, and civilian journalists. The usage of uniforms is just another layer of protective gear.

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15 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic - I've noticed in several recent pictures that most of the federales are no longer wearing the balaclavas (face masks)...has anyone else noticed this? Does anyone know if they are no longer authorized to wear it?

Anonymous said...

You know what's going to happen with all this official cartel uniform thing going on?......the Zeta's are going to go to some kind of mass event wearing C.D.G uniforms and shoot up a shit load of innocent civilians and probably make sure they leave a couple of people alone so they can be witnesses. This way the people will think the C.D.G were responsible once they see the Zeta's wearing uniforms with the C.D.G logo on them shooting up the place. Then they tell the police and other people of what they did plus turning the people against C.D.G. who they think is responsible.

The Zeta's will do this just to mess up the Culf cartels following.

Anonymous said...

Yet another failure of the Mexican laes,impersonating a law officer,fireman etc can be felony offences in Texas. Federal conspiracy laws are extremley broad making prosecution much easier for the state. Mexican legal system is flawed,prosecution needs to be simplified ,for what its worth. We all know the terrible state of Mexican prisons. National ID cards,computers,ORGANIZATION,dilligence,identify,locate,control. Mexico is hoplessly disorganized at present,part of why drug gangs have such power. Go to any slum,ghetto,barrio in the world you see the same thing,criminal gangs ruling their turf(plaza),and the people in their kingdom.How to break the cycle,64 dollar Q.

Executive Outcome said...

I call BS on the picture at 2:09. Those are not CDS or any other Cartel. They're definitely PMC's in IRAQ. Someone has a bit of skill at photoshopping. CDS wishes they had professionals like that.

Anonymous said...

cartel de sinaloa has the best equipment 2:08 they look like soldiers

Anonymous said...

at 2:08 they are not in Iraq,, you will never see them hide their face in Iraq for they haven't a damn thing to hide from.. I dont think its CDS either its more of a local unit that one or two are undercover in thats the only explanation. you will not find anyone in Iraq wearing those black face mask.

Anonymous said...

Que naco son los narcos, This video is cheezy, All those guns and jewlery are tacky and ugly. And those are things esos pendejos give up thier life for!? Puros pendejos todos los carteles.

Anonymous said...

'buncha tacky wannabe's

Executive Outcome said...

@anonymous 10:39

Look closely. those are not masks. it's the spray tool from photoshop.

1. All M4's one with an Israeli reflex sight.
2. Not one AK 47 the preferred narco weapon
3. Legit EAGLE industries Assault vests not the cheap chinese knock offs the cartels have.
4.DOD Identification on the team leaders left arm
5. GPS/Sat com antenna on the roof of the vehicle VERY common on PMC
trucks in the sandbox.
6. Crappy photoshopped logos on truck and on breachers vel-tab
7. 2-3 have certain anglo features
8. Vickers tactical sling on breachers M4
9. I personally know one of the guys pictured.
10. http://youtu.be/9gYvW0nwkwM

Get real. The moronic cartels are caricatures of these patriots.

El Nayaloense said...

I have heard that Zetas like to wear or display the Ferrarri logo and CDG use the John Deere emblem

J said...

The uniforms is fascinating to me for some reason, it just seems so surreal at times, that groups of these guys are riding around in convoys ready to shoot it out with Army or contras...and they are wearing uniforms. The defiance and impunity is pretty much articulated by these uniforms. Some of them don't have the uniforms, Juarez and CAF has never utilized these, although Muletas during his little run had people with FEM vests on.

Thirty CDG sicarios in uniform in a convoy seems like such a great shot for movie.

Anonymous said...

What is truly amazing is the fact these cartel idiots haven't figured out that if they would give the poor population of Mexico some of the profit from the drug trade, instead of buying Gold guns, they could easily get the masses behind their drug empire. Instead they kill innocent people and make themselves hated by these poor masses. There is enough drug money going around that the war between the cartels is only hurting their business instead of making them all as rich as they could be. It is going to take dedicated law enforcement/military long enough as it is to stop this tirade. Just imagine if they were all working together and giving some of the money to the needy.

Runaway1956 said...

Please, allow me to point out the error in the title of this article. Narco uniforms are the mark of POWER in Mexico, not authority. Authority belongs to the people of a nation, and/or the government. The gangs can only wield POWER. And, they will do so, until the people and the government decide to take it away from the cartels.

POWER != AUTHORITY

This written by an authoritarian type of person. No matter how much power you have, you cannot force me to do a damned thing. If you have legitimate authority over me, I will march to my death, leading or following any number of other men.

And, finally, as a Christian, I believe that all legitimate authority derives from God. There is nothing "Godly" about any of the cartels.

Anonymous said...

Yeah ok to the last guy^^^^^^ you will not always be targeted, your weaknesses will be exploited, will you be willing to sacrifice your children or whole family for your ideals??? Im not attacking you, I am just saying that alot of the time, these are ways to get reluctant people to do things they never usually would

Anonymous said...

So what are the current crop of symbols and stickers, decals etc..

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