‘Monster Trucks’: Mexican Authorities Seize Armored Cars Built for Drug Cartels

Published: 08 March 2024

Narco-tank-1“Monster vehicles”, built and used by organized crime groups in Mexico, have armor cladding to reinforce their bodies and gun ports to allow weapons to be fired. (Photo: ZestyMasterOfZesty, Wikimedia, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Long before Tesla’s “tackle anything” steel cybertruck hit the market, enterprising Mexican drug cartels were special-ordering their own monster trucks for illicit purposes.

On Wednesday, the Mexican Navy reported seizing 53 handcrafted armored vehicles in the country’s capital. These vehicles, known as "monsters" for their big size and armored construction that makes them look like battle tanks, are used by the country's cartels to battle rival criminal groups.

The vehicles were seized on March 2 at three different locations in Mexico City, in collaboration with authorities from the Attorney General's Office and the State Public Security Commission (CES) of the state of Morelos.

According to officials, the vehicles have engines, doors and cabins reinforced with thick metal plates, and armored glass windows allowing wide peripheral vision. Gun ports in the upper parts allow occupants to shoot from within, when they’re not firing tire-puncturing devices from special launchers.

Police also seized a firearm, cartridges of different calibers, scales, and telephones, as well as marijuana, cocaine and other substances.

Two alleged cartel members were arrested: the supposed leader of the Ronda 88 criminal organization, known as  "El Fabián de la Ronda 88," and his son and second-in-command, alias "El Cachorro," one of the most wanted men in the Mexican capital. Both men are wanted for their involvement in homicides, kidnappings, extortion and other crimes. The alleged owner of the armoring factory was arrested too.

Ronda 88 is a criminal group in conflict with La Union Tepito gang, which also operates in Mexico City. The clashes between these groups, which are trying to control the drug dealing and extortion business in various areas of the capital, have resulted in approximately 10 homicides, according to media reports.

However, several media outlets claim that both Ronda 88 ringleaders may already be free after a judge ruled that their capture was illegal and that El Cachorro allegedly escaped from a prison on Wednesday.