A Closer Look at the Tamaulipas Cartel Arsenal
WESLACO – More gun battles are breaking out across the Valley's border in Mexico. State police says it's a war they're fighting out-gunned.
The weapons come from the U.S. or even Russia, but they all seem to be ending up in the wrong hands. CHANNEL 5 NEWS is taking a closer look at the cartel's weapons.
Some are unearthed from the ground, others stashed in houses, but all are providing a steady stream of weapons to cartels in Tamaulipas keeping them fully stocked.
Felix Arturo Rodriguez, director of Center for Analysis, Information, and Studies in Tamaulipas – a special ops team within the state's police – says they're fighting but against weapons not normally in this area.
"These are weapons are the ones you see in Iraq. You see them in Afghanistan. They're weapons of combat; weapons of war," Rodriguez described.
The destruction left in the wake of their confrontations illustrates the force they're facing.
"We are talking about weapons with the capacity to tear down a house or bring down an airplane. It's another level," he says.
Perhaps most aggravating, the weapons the cartel employs are not in the state's arsenal.
Rodriguez declares, "It's not possible, really, that the organized crime has weapons with much greater force and capacity than we do."
State authorities constantly seize weapons. Joe Cruz, manager at McAllen's the Gun Rack, looks over the pictures of the seized guns.
He pointed one out, ".50 Barrett Caliber Sniper Rifle. It appears like a magazine fit. It holds ten rounds."
A .50 caliber weapon uses a thick, long bullet with full-metal jacket. They're sold in the U.S. as semi-automatics.
Without seeing them in action, Cruz explained, it's hard to know if they're being used as full-automatics in Mexico. Some use bullets with incendiary tips that can explode on contact. Others are titanium projectiles that can go through several inches of metal.
Cruz explained, "The military uses them for long-range, hitting armored vehicles, and taking down aircraft sometimes.”
AK-47s and AR15s comprise the majority of seized weapons. M2s are less common but impressive in size and use.
"The design was more for infantry support mostly carried on vehicles for assault. Or, some air planes would carry them during WWII," added Cruz.
In a recent discovery, state authorities found a hand grenade under a hat.
"They're very lethal within a hundred meters," Cruz says.
He added the military likely uses those grenades but they cannot be purchased in the U.S. Other weapons are suspected to have traveled further.
Cruz points out an RPG grenade launcher. He says it's "most likely Russian, Yugoslavian, [or from] somewhere overseas."
That kind of weapon can penetrate armor up to 2.5 inches thick and is used mainly against tanks.
All of the images we showed Cruz were taken in just October.
Rodriguez and his team are seeing them daily but refuse to see them as normal.
"People who have these kinds of weapons to me are terrorists," Rodriguez says. "I can't consider them a common criminal."
A battle continues in Tamaulipas, one recently focused in the Miguel Aleman area where Cartel del Noreste is forcefully moving in.
Mexico's federal government announced this week they'll soon be working on a new strategy to stem the flow of weapons and ammunition.
Rodriguez believes more vigilance on both sides of the border should be part of that program.
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