EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The president of Mexico is worried about drug cartels’ increased use of explosive-laden drones to attack rivals and law enforcement officials. He has sent a draft decree to the Mexican Senate enhancing penalties against those using drones in illegal activities or to harm others.
“The objective we seek with this initiative is to (curtail) the use of drones to launch explosives that harm the population, that harm the authorities. It establishes penalties so that type of activity can be punished,” Mexican Defense Minister Luis Crescencio Sandoval said on Tuesday.
Sandoval said explosive drone attacks have been recorded in the western states of Jalisco and Michoacan. It is there that the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is trying to displace local groups like Familia Michoacana and others, international security experts say.
The decree sets a penalty of five to 10 years in prison for those who adapt a drone to deliver an explosive charge and a three-to-10-year penalty for those who track police or soldiers with a drone for the purpose of evading or attacking them.
A key provision calls for prison time of up to 20 years for those who use a drone to deliver explosive charges or harmful chemicals against individuals or buildings or crash the unmanned aerial vehicles against such targets. If the intended target is a member of the armed forces or a police officer, the penalty goes up to 30 years, according to the proposed reforms to Mexico’s firearms and explosives laws.
The new charges would apply in addition to any counts of homicide or injuries resulting from the attacks.
Mexican crime analyst Juan Ibarrola told the news portal Milenio the reforms are overdue.
“This is necessary and urgent. With today’s technology, guns and rifles are no longer sufficient for organized criminals. They have demonstrated proficiency in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to commit barbaric, bloody acts that have taken the lives not only of police officers or soldiers, but also civilians,” Ibarrola told the portal.
AMLO’s decree identifies at least four cases in which organized criminals have engaged in drone attacks. The first was in 2018, when a drone carrying two fragmentary grenades crashed on the home of the state police chief of Baja California.
In April 2021, members of a drug cartel sent explosive-laden drones against police officers near Aguililla, Michoacan, injuring two of them. The following January, also in Michoacan, the Jalisco cartel dropped homemade explosive devices in the towns of El Bejuco and La Romera to force residents to leave their homes and farms.
A fourth incident involved Mexican authorities downing drones flying too close to the National Palace in February 2022.
Independent human rights groups also reported drone attacks in the state of Guerrero last May against residents being forced out of their communities by Familia Michoacana.
Defense Minister Sandoval said the Mexican army has formed anti-drone squads that accompany the military during patrols in areas where the use of exploding drones has taken place or is suspected. “They carry anti-drone weapons so they can be brought down. Also, explosives experts go with them so they can identify potentially explosive artifacts and deactivate them,” Sandoval said.