Radio Zetas: Drug Cartel Seizes the Airwaves
Mexico's most feared traffickers are ramping up their tech operations—and kidnapping radio experts to do so.
Los Zetas, widely regarded as Mexico's most powerful drug cartel, have reportedly diversified their activities in an attempt to become the most tech-savvy organization of its kind south of the border. The notorious paramilitaries now have their own radio network in order to keep an eye on police activity, and keep their trafficking business running smoothly. Faced with the need to build the right tech team to achieve this, they reportedly kidnapped a number of radio experts—and not one of the 36 missing radio technicians has been seen since. Colonel Bob Killebrew, author of Crime Wars; Gangs, Cartels, and US National Security, tells VICE: "In the United States, we often make the mistake of thinking about the cartels as just drug pushers, when they are actually military terrorist groups. They also deal in kidnapping, murder, extortion—all the crime you can do with a well-organized and ruthless group." Killebrew argues the tech advances made by Los Zetas only serve to further the cartel's scope for ruthlessness. "They have a paramilitary mindset...a chain of command, an appreciation of what technology can do to enhance paramilitary capabilities," he says. "If you’re a military guy who started such a group, one of your first concerns is communications. You can build communication networks at a relatively low expense if you have the expertise." Killebrew says the cartel represents "a new kind of 21st century criminal," and one with potential for destruction—not just within Mexico, but on a global scale. "These cartels are not the mafia—they’re different and they’re worse," he says. "And if you look at them as a global phenomenon, they have the potential to seriously challenge our civilization."