Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Armored Monstruo Trucks Of The CJNG, The CDG, & Los Zetas

The following is a direct translation of an article written by journalist Patricia Dávila for Proceso Magazine published on September 10, 2021 under the title "Armor Pirate for the Narco"

Every year organized crime in Mexico modernizes and resorts to new tactics, improves its military equipment, diversifies. Until now, the government has been unable to contain its access to heavy weaponry and procedures such as armoring its vehicles with the most resistant steel, sometimes comparable to that used by the Army. However, representatives of this branch of the industry warn that not all companies offering armoring services comply with the legal requirement to register and report their clients' information...

While observing through the cracks of a farm that turned out to be a warehouse, Army troops detected several vehicles. They waited for agents of the Attorney General's Office (FGR) to arrive with a search warrant to enter. There they found, among others, a Rino-type pickup truck, property of the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG), armored "artisanally" with plates made to withstand 50 caliber Barrett impacts.

Taken from SSAB Armox Protection Plate product information

The discovery occurred on the morning of July 30 at kilometer 63.350 of the Guadalajara-Colima highway in Tuxpan, Jalisco, and would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the inscriptions "SSAB" and "Ramor 550" on the plates covering the "monster," indicating that one of the most effective steels was used.

The first known monsters were seized in Tamaulipas, in 2010, as a result of the dispute between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. The latter devised these armored cars to protect their drug shipments through the vast semi-desert plains, with hundreds of breachs and country roads. In them, they drive through the rancherías terrorizing the population and use them to confront rival gangs or state forces.

Taken from SSAB Ramor Protection Steels product information.

SSAB is an internationally recognized firm. On its website it extols the quality of its steel plates: Ramor 550, it states, is a type of armored plate that can withstand 50 caliber Barrett impacts. This weapon is so powerful that on May 1, 2015, in Michoacán, the CJNG used it to shoot down an EC725 Cougar helicopter of the Mexican Air Force. The cartel thus copied fighting techniques from the Islamic State or rebel forces in Somalia and Syria, or from the Taliban currently subjugating the Afghan population.

Taken from SSAB Ramor Protection Steels product information.

But this was not the first time that SSAB material was detected in CJNG units. Last February 20, at 11 a.m., a drone recorded the entry of a convoy of CJNG armored monsters into Tepalcatepec, Michoacan. It was learned that the hitmen were in search of Juan Jose Farias, El Abuelo. At minute 1:27 of the recording, a vehicle with a red cylindrical cab made of SSAB steel plates appears.

Another SSAB material is Hardox 500, which according to its manufacturer offers greater load capacity and consumes less fuel per ton transported. Its guaranteed impact resistance is 27 J at -20 degrees Celsius and a typical value of 45 J at -40 degrees Celsius, an optimal choice for mining in extreme temperatures.

From the Hardox 500 Tuf page on

"The beast just got better," SSAB touts it, narco-style. On its website it has a video where it puts Hardox 500 through tough endurance tests.

On November 6, 2020, before the CJNG went after El Abuelo and after confronting a faction of the Gulf Cartel, security forces found one of these armored "beasts" on the Comales-Camargo highway in Tamaulipas. Its rear, lined with red steel, bore the SSAB brand: Hardox 500. It was stopped because the tires had been shot out.

SSAB produces "the steel that protects against risk," as its slogan says: against explosions or ballistic threats, whether you want to build an armored military vehicle, a limousine for a top executive or a panic room for a celebrity. Even the Swedish embassy in the United States has protection made of this steel.

From the Armox page on

In June 2010, the Zetas used an armored truck during a shootout in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas. After securing the vehicle, which was burned and abandoned, it was found that it had protection on the tires, a wider and more pointed defense; instead of glass, metal plates with small slots were placed in front and on the sides of the vehicle for observation. It reached 40 kilometers per hour.

In the same state, during an operation in Ciudad Mier, army troops seized another Zetas armored monster, which reached 110 kilometers per hour. However, the state has done nothing to contain the technological capacity of organized crime.

In May 2011, after confronting a group of criminals in Jalisco, police officers seized the "Zeta Beast," a huge armored pickup truck made in a homemade way. A month later, on June 14, in the town of La Lobera in the same state, another similar unit was detected, which became known as "The Zeta Beast II" due to its impressive dimensions.

"La Bestia Zeta II" or The Zeta Beast II

By then, the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) had seized, in operations in Tamaulipas and Coahuila, 14 "modified and handcrafted armored" vehicles.

On August 5, 2012, in the municipality of Progreso, Coahuila, the Army seized a monster with a capacity for 20 people and six spaces equipped for shooters. According to the Sedena, its windows had level 5 armor. The device was transferred to the municipality of Melchor Múzquiz, headquarters of the 14th Cavalry Regiment. By January 2012, the Army had already seized 30 of these monsters in this area.

In May 2018, the government of Tamaulipas announced the destruction of 200 armored vehicles and pickup trucks that had belonged to criminal groups. In 2019, 38 were dismantled, in 2020 there were 57, and so far in 2021 the Special Operations Group has secured 44 automobiles with handmade armor and 12 with factory armor. In the entity, the installation, commercialization and use of armored vehicles is sanctioned with 15 years of imprisonment.

The use of the monsters soon spread to Michoacán, where such vehicles have been seized from Los Viagras. In January 2020 the Sedena secured another one in Aguililla.

Four armored vehicles seized in Sahuaripa, Sonora

In August 2019, a military officer from the IV Zone, in the rural area of Sahuaripa, Sonora, showed four vehicles that were seized from organized crime on July 31 of that year. Three of them, he said, had level eight armor, against impacts from large-caliber weapons. In Mexico, from level seven its use is restricted to the Armed Forces and state security institutions.

On August 12, 2019, the community police of Heliodoro Castillo, in Guerrero, seized a truck armored to resist firearm impacts up to .50 caliber. It allegedly belonged to Los Rojos leader Santiago Mazari, El Carrete, currently imprisoned. The presence of armored monsters has also been detected in Nuevo León.

Unregistered armorers

On April 24, 2010, a level five armored van saved Minerva Bautista, then Secretary of Public Security of Michoacán, as she withstood an attack by assassins who for four minutes fired 350 projectiles from Barret 50 caliber rifles -anti-armor-, AK 47, AR-15 and G3 assault rifles, as well as 40 millimeter fragmentation grenades.

Photo of "Transportadora de Protección y Seguridad" or TPS Armoring 

Carlos Karam, head of the Technical and Armoring Department of the company Transportadora de Protección y Seguridad (TPS), which exhibits the truck as a trophy, said in an interview with Proceso that it now sells 40% of the 3,000 units it used to sell in other years:

"The drop is because of the pandemic, not because the violence or danger has passed. On the contrary, insecurity has increased in the country; for example, in Guanajuato. We had the robbery, the only one in three years, of two trucks and a platform. We filed a complaint and the insurance company paid us because we covered the invoice value of the vehicle and the invoice value of the armoring. We paid very high premiums, from 50 to 60 thousand pesos per unit."

About what he thinks about the manufacture of armor by narcos, he answers, "Armored vehicles were made to offer ballistic protection to their occupants.

-There have also been operations in which the authorities have seized cars with factory armor or modified by companies. Even the FGR has documented 285. Some were found in a ranch belonging to the sons of drug trafficker Joaquín Guzmán Loera.

-When we started this business, some private prospects told us: "Why are you offering this to me, if it is a product for people who are "not doing well"? We never offered it to anyone outside the law. Every operation has to pass the filters of the Ministry of Finance and the DGSP, which issues a hologram for each unit. The authorities know who is selling, who is buying, who will be driving and even where they will be driving.

From a TPS Armoring testing video where a frag grenade was thrown at the vehicle.

"Even when I sell a unit in the United States, the US government asks me to prove how much steel and glass I bought for the unit and how much I actually used. In Mexico there are companies that armor and are not regulated, therefore they do not comply with any requirement."

The FGR reported that since 2008 the vehicles secured that have armoring, according to the characteristics pointed out by the agents of the Public Ministry, are in total 285: in 2008 and 2009 four were seized each year; three in 2010; six in 2011, four in 2012, five in 2013, one in 2014, eight in 2015, 16 in 2016; 25 per year in 2017, 2018 and 2019; 79 in 2020, and there were 39 up to last July 31.

Karam recalls: "In 1994, when the business started, the first kidnappings took place in Cuernavaca, which led to the sale of armored vehicles. Later, with extortion, attacks and fights between cartels, the demand shot up towards the center and south of the country, such as Mexico City and the State of Mexico, Guerrero, Tabasco and Veracruz. Sinaloa is an entity where security is needed, but to a lesser extent, because the 'groups there' ensure that crimes do not increase, unlike in other states".

When questioned about the reason why SSAB's steel is used by the cartels to armor their "monsters", he points out that it could have been stolen, sold to an unregulated armorer or sold by themselves.

Taken from SSAB Armox Protection Plate product information

Ricardo Reyes Retana, owner of the company Eurotecnología en Blindajes, who is part of the armoring committee of the ASIS International Association of Security Experts, agrees with him:

"The companies that sell steels for ballistic use such as SSAB or SWEBOR, who are manufacturers, or those that distribute materials for this industry, such as SOINCO, Ballistic Security, Caliber 3006, should be registered with the DGSP and report to whom they sell and what they sell, and that the companies are properly registered. It is a sad thing about steel materials, ballistic materials, because there is no control over them."

He adds that some armor companies deceptively sell steels that are not ballistic but are very resistant: "These should also be regulated. Although they are not made to stop bullets, they can give the service if they make it a little thicker. This is the case of SAAB's Hardox 500 - used by the CJNG - it is for mining, but it has the same hardness as a ballistic one. The difference is that the ballistic one guarantees that the whole plate has the same resistance and the mining one does not. There is a need for strict regulation on what is manufactured or enters the country, who places the order, to whom it is sold and for what purpose.

"In Mexico there are armored glass factories. Definitely someone is making those glasses for organized crime, because I'm sure they are not imported. Among the distributors are Protection Materials, Pacal Armoring or Diamond Glass, owned by the same owner of SOINCO. None of them have a control for the sale. The buyer can ask for it curved or flat like the one used in the Jalisco Cartel's trucks. You just say: send me 50 centimeters wide by 60 centimeters long and as thick, and that's it. They can be greenish, polarized, mirror..."

A Toyota Sienna minivan being "bulletproofed" in a Mexico City shop called Protecto Glass.

SOINCO advertises itself on its website as an expert in distribution, import and export of armoring materials in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico, with more than 25 years of experience in this country.

-So, what has made the manufacturing of armored monsters by drug traffickers grow is the lack of regulation by the authorities?

-Yes, as long as we do not have a clear rule on how to do it.

Last July 17, the CJNG uploaded a video to social networks that in two days registered 13 million reproductions. In it they showed their paramilitary might. Due to its impact, it was analyzed three days later in the morning conference of the Presidency. In this regard, the Secretary of National Defense, Luis Crescencio Sandoval, gave the official account of the weapons seen in the video:

"Eighty weapons, including 50.9 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns, .50 caliber Barrett rifles, assault rifles, grenade launchers and 75 visible people; 19 vehicles with commercial characteristics, of which 12 with handmade armor and seven with adjustments to mount armament, and the three that are out of focus."

Steel distribution companies such as SSAB, or armored glass as Diamond Glass, among others, sell to whoever requests it. They offer to pay a deposit and send the product to your home, and participate in government bids, offering automotive, architectural, naval and military applications: they contribute to armoring the federal forces as well as the drug traffickers they fight.

For three weeks Proceso waited for a response to requests for interviews and information from Hugo Garduño, SSAB's representative in Mexico, and from Luis Wertman Zaslav, head of the DGSP. None of them responded.


  1. Animo Sicarios!
    Estos monstros son pura chatara para el target practice !

    All CDS Special Forces Tier 1 operators carry M72 Light Anti-Armor Weapon LAW as part of their tactical EDC. They also have Milkor MGL lightweight 40 mm six-shot revolver-type grenade launchers. M18 Claymore mines for enemies attempting to enter CDS plazas.
    FGM-148 Javelin that will easily destroy any pinche enemy combatants monstro.

    By the way El Patron now has a one of a kind Mercedes Benz G63 6x6 G Wagon aka "La Bestia" which is hermetically sealed against fluid attacks, and features run-flat tires, night-vision devices, smoke screens, and oil slicks as defensive measures against attackers. This Mossad modified SUV features armor made of aluminum, ceramic, and steel; the exterior walls have a thickness of eight inches (200 mm), the windows are multi-layered and five inches (130 mm) thick, and each door can electrify its handles to prevent entry.

  2. No le falten a la Bestia asi como no le faltamos a el Senor. Todo la arma completa de los pies a la cabeza. A estos putos que buscan la liberta sin resplaser la muerto se crean bergas caminando por aqui. Ni madre. Fuck'em all off and come on. They're riding on our dime. We set the motion. And no one else. Just us.

  3. I have been looking for an article like this. Odd fascination with these things, as they are indeed...monsters. Thank you for translating and posting this gem! MS.H

    1. Anytime, MS.H.

      I found all the details about the steel and glass makers very interesting too.

    2. I love those nerdy, random factoids so interesting

  4. Amlo administration the Cartel has really grown. Can u imagine what they will be like in 3 more years

  5. Diamond Glass, among others, sell to whoever requests it. They offer to pay a deposit and send the product to your home, and participate in g

  6. The 1st photo looks like a truck from Mad Max, we are actually over due for another Mad Max movie.


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