Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #50: Additional Weaponized Consumer Drone Incidents in Michoacán and Puebla, MX

Mon, 05/10/2021 - 8:41pm

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #50: Additional Weaponized Consumer Drone Incidents in Michoacán and Puebla, MX

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan

This research note documents two recent developments in the proliferation of weaponized consumer drones (aerial improvised explosive devices) in Mexico. The first incident is an alleged attack by the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán on the morning of 4 May 2021. The second is the arrest of two suspected Cártel de Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) drone weaponeers in Puebla on 22 April 2021. Both incidents follow the widely reported 20 April 2021 drone attack in Aguililla, Michoacán.

SSP Mich

Policía Michoacán (Michoacán Police) Secure a Contested Section of the Apatzingán-Aguililla Road. Source: Secretaría de Seguridad Pública de Michoacán (SSP Michoacán)

Key Information: “CJNG ataca con drones cargados de explosivos comunidad de Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.” Político MX. 4 May 2021, https://politico.mx/minuta-politica/minuta-politica-estados/cjng-ataca-con-drones-cargados-de-explosivos-comunidad-de-tepalcatepec-michoacán/:

Hombres armados presuntamente identificados como integrantes del Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) atacaron con drones cargados con explosivos la comunidad de Pinolapa, en el municipio de Tepalcatepec, en el estado de Michoacán.

¿Qué se dijo? De acuerdo con El Universal, los testimonios de los pobladores de la zona indicaron que los drones estaban cargados con explosivos C4 y granadas de fragmentación. Señalaron que el grupo armado intentó irrumpir a la comunidad cerca de las 10:00 horas.

Los hechos. Detallaron que los sujetos armados intentaron ingresar a Pinolapa a través de la zona serrana del lugar; sin embargo, los habitantes repelieron el ataque.[1]

Key Information: “CJNG ataca con drones comunidades de Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.” El Universal. 4 May 2021, https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/cjng-ataca-con-drones-comunidades-de-tepalcatepec-michoacan:

Sujetos fuertemente armados identificados con el Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, iniciaron esta mañana un ataque con drones cargados de explosivos en la comunidad de Pinolapa, municipio de Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.

Los pobladores de esa zona de la Tierra Caliente reportaron que los artefactos no tripulados están cargados con explosivos C4 y granadas de fragmentación.

Relataron que el grupo armado intentó irrumpir cerca de las 10:00 horas a esa zona limítrofe entre los municipios de Tepalcatepec y Coalcomán.[2]

Key Information: “Cártel del Tepalcatepec denunció incursión del CJNG con supuestos drones.” Infobae. 5 May 2021, https://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2021/05/05/cartel-del-tepalcatepec-denuncio-incursion-del-cjng-con-supuestos-drones/:

“Se señala que en el estado de Puebla, diversas personas se dedican a fabricar bombas utilizando un material explosivo, haciendo uso de drones para transportarlas”, indicó la FGR en un comunicado.

Tepalcatepec forma parte de la región calentana que está en asedio por el CJNG que quiere recuperar la tierra que vio nacer a su líder, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, el Mencho; mientras que remanentes locales no quieren ceder más territorio y se agruparon bajo Cárteles Unidos.

El concilio del llamado Cárteles Unidos agrupa a los Viagras, la Nueva Familia Michoacana y los Blancos de Troya. Algunas de estas facciones simulan ser autodefensas para legitimar retenes, armamento, vigilancia nocturna y rechazo de la autoridad. Sin embargo, pretenden resistir el asedio del Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación y no perder la plaza de Michoacán para seguir con ilícitos como el narcomenudeo, la fabricación de droga y extorsiones a productores de limón y aguacate.[3]

Key Information: “Procesaron a dos fabricantes de drones con explosivos que trabajaban para el ‘Marro’, ex líder del CSRL.” Infobae. 24 April 2021, https://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2021/04/25/procesaron-a-dos-fabricantes-de-drones-con-explosivos-que-trabajaban-para-el-marro-ex-lider-del-csrl/:

Diego “J” Rogelio “L”, presuntos operadores del Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL), fueron detenidos y vinculados a proceso por su presunta participación en el equipamiento de drones con explosivos para las huestes de José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, el Marro.

Según investigaciones de la Fiscalía General de la República (FGR), estos sujetos colaboraban con el CSRL desde su base en Puebla…

…Agentes de la Policía Federal Ministerial y de la Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional cumplimentaron una orden de cateo en un domicilio de de San Andrés Cholula, Puebla, donde fue asegurado Diego ”J”. De forma simultánea se desarrollaron acciones similares en la colonia Hacienda San Antonio, de Xochitepec, Morelos, donde cayó Rogelio “L”. 

Un año después de recibir la denuncia anónima, el 22 de abril de 2021, los dos supuestos operadores del CSRL fueron vinculados a proceso por no contar con permisos para fabricar o manipular explosivos reservados a las FFAA; además de poseer armas y municiones del uso exclusivo del Ejército, Armada y Fuerza Aérea.[4]

Key Information: Jorge Butrón, “Caen en Puebla pioneros en uso de drones con explosivos.” La Razón. 24 April 2021, https://www.razon.com.mx/estados/caen-puebla-pioneros-utilizar-drones-explosivos-432129:

Dos fabricantes de drones con explosivos que trabajan para el Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima, fueron detenidos por violar la Ley Federal de Armas de Fuego y Explosivos y vinculados a proceso por un juez de control…

De acuerdo a las autoridades federales el 22 de marzo pasado comenzó una investigación, luego de denuncias anónimas que señalaron a varias personas que producen este tipo de instrumentos en el estado de Puebla, por ello, se concedió la autorización y orden para detener a Diego “J” y Rogelio “N”[sic].[5]

Who:            

Incident 1: Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) Suspected.

Incident 2: Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) Suspected.

What:          

Incident 1: Weaponized drone attack (aerial improvised explosive device).

Incident 2: Suspected bombmakers/drone weaponeers arrested.

When:           

Incident 1: Tuesday 4 May 2021, at approximately1000 hours (10:00 AM)

Incident 2: Wednesday 21 April 2021, unspecified.

Where:        

Incident 1: Pinolapa, Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, Mexico. 

Incident 2: San Andrés Cholula, Puebla (Diego “J”) and

                  Hacienda San Antonio, Morelos (Rogelio “L”) 

Why:            

Incident 1: Cartel competition for territorial and/or market control (CJNG).

Incident 2: Cartel competition for territorial and/or market control (CSRL).

Analysis

These two incidents represent the sixth and seventh publicly documented cartel weaponized drone incidents in Mexico since October 2017. Incident 1 is an attack on Tuesday 4 May 2021. Incident 2 involves the arrest of two suspected CSRL drone weaponeers for activity initially reported in Puebla in April 2020. These incidents follow the highly visible attack on Tuesday 20 April 2017 outside of Aguililla, Michoacán attributed to members of the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG).[6]

J & L

The Attorney General in coordination with the Mexican Army (SEDENA) arrested Diego “J” and Rogelio “L” on Probable Federal Firearms and Explosive Charges. Source: Fiscalía General de la República (FGR), @FGRMexico, 24 April 2024. 

Incident 1 involves an alleged drone attack attributed to the CJNG. It occurred during an assault on a contested road near Tepalcatepec, Michoacán. No injuries were reported.[7] Incident 2 involved the arrest of two CSRL bombmakers/weaponeers for activities in Guanajuato last year (2020) during the battle between the CSRL and CJNG.[8][9] While these two newly documented incidents are not as spectacular as the 20 April 2020 incident in Aguililla, Michoacán, they demonstrate the continuing trend toward weaponized drone proliferation among Mexican criminal armed groups (CAGs).

Presently, the CJNG is the only cartel in Mexico documented to be actively experimenting with and utilizing weaponized drones given the fragmentation of the CSRL. The expectation is that, as publicity about CJNG incidents continue, drones artillados use will begin to proliferate to the other cartels albeit in a haphazard manner.  

Sources

Jorge Butrón, “Caen en Puebla pioneros en uso de drones con explosivos.” La Razón. 24 April 2021, https://www.razon.com.mx/estados/caen-puebla-pioneros-utilizar-drones-explosivos-432129.

“Cártel del Tepalcatepec denunció incursión del CJNG con supuestos drones.” Infobae. 5 May 2021, https://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2021/05/05/cartel-del-tepalcatepec-denuncio-incursion-del-cjng-con-supuestos-drones/.

“CJNG ataca con drones cargados de explosivos comunidad de Tepalcatepec. Michoacán.” Político MX. 4 May 2021, https://politico.mx/minuta-politica/minuta-politica-estados/cjng-ataca-con-drones-cargados-de-explosivos-comunidad-de-tepalcatepec-michoacán/.

“CJNG ataca con drones comunidades de Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.” El Universal. 5 May 2021, https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/estados/cjng-ataca-con-drones-comunidades-de-tepalcatepec-michoacan.

"Comunicado FGR 148/21. FGR obtiene vinculación a proceso para dos hombres detenidos, uno en Puebla y otro en Morelos [Press Release FGR 148/21. FGR obtains connection to the process for two detained men, one in Puebla and the other in Morelos].” Mexico City: Fiscalía General de la República (FGR). 24 April 2021, https://www.gob.mx/fgr/prensa/comunicado-fgr-148-21-fgr-obtiene-vinculacion-a-proceso-para-dos-hombres-detenidos-uno-en-puebla-y-otro-en-morelos.

“Procesaron a dos fabricantes de drones con explosivos que trabajaban para el ‘Marro’, ex líder del CSRL.” Infobae. 24 April 2021, https://www.infobae.com/america/mexico/2021/04/25/procesaron-a-dos-fabricantes-de-drones-con-explosivos-que-trabajaban-para-el-marro-ex-lider-del-csrl/.

Significance: Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), Cártel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL), Drones, Drones Artillados (armed or ‘gun drones’), Improvised Weaponized Drones, Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)

Endnotes

[1] In English, the title reads: “CJNG attacks the community of Tepalcatepec, Michoacán with drones loaded with explosives.” The text reads: “Armed men allegedly identified as members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) attacked the community of Pinolapa, in the municipality of Tepalcatepec, in the state of Michoacán with drones loaded with explosives.” … “What was said? According to El Universal, the testimony of the residents of the area indicated that the drones were loaded with C4 explosives and fragmentation grenades. They indicated that the armed group tried to break into the community around 10:00 hours (10:00 AM).” … “The facts. They detailed that the armed subjects tried to enter Pinolapa through the mountainous area of ​​the place; however, the inhabitants repelled the attack.”  

[2] In English, the title reads: “CJNG attacks communities in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán with drones.” The text reads: “Heavily armed subjects identified with the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel initiated an attack this morning with drones loaded with explosives in the community of Pinolapa, municipality of Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.” … “The residents of that area of ​​Tierra Caliente reported that the unmanned devices were loaded with C4 explosives and fragmentation grenades.” … “They reported that the armed group tried to break into the border area between the municipalities of Tepalcatepec and Coalcomán at around 1000 hours [10:00 AM].” Video related to this report available at “#Video Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación #CJNG ataca con drones comunidades de Tepalcatepec,” Michoacán. El Universal Twitter feed (@El_Universal_Mx).  4 May 2021, https://twitter.com/El_Universal_Mx/status/1389624180241539072?s=20.

[3] In English, the title reads: “Tepalcatepec Cartel denounced CJNG incursion with alleged drones.” The text reads: “‘It is noted that in the state of Puebla, various people are dedicated to making bombs using an explosive material, using drones to transport them,’ the FGR said in a statement.” … “Tepalcatepec is part of the Helena region that is under siege by the CJNG that wants to recover the land where its leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, El Mencho was born; while local remnants do not want to give up more territory and are grouped under United Cartels.” … “The council of the so-called United Cartels groups together the Viagras, the New Michoacán Family and the Whites of Troy. Some of these factions pretend to be self-defense groups to legitimize checkpoints, weapons, night surveillance, and rejection of authority. However, they intend to resist the siege of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and not lose the Michoacán Plaza [in order] to continue with illicit activities such as drug dealing, drug manufacturing, and extortion of lemon and avocado producers.”

[4] In English, the title reads: “They prosecuted two manufacturers of drones with explosives who worked for ‘el Marro,’ former leader of the CSRL.” The text reads: “Diego ‘J’ and Rogelio ‘L,’ alleged operators of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel (CSRL), were detained and linked to proceedings for their alleged participation in equipping drones with explosives for the hosts of José Antonio Yépez Ortiz, el Marro.” … “According to investigations by the Attorney General's Office (FGR), these subjects collaborated with the CSRL from its base in Puebla.” ... “Agents of the Federal Ministerial Police and the Secretariat of National Defense completed a search warrant at a home in San Andrés Cholula, Puebla, where Diego ‘J’ was seized. Simultaneously, similar actions took place in the Hacienda San Antonio neighborhood of Xochitepec, Morelos, where Rogelio ‘L’ fell [was arrested].” … “One year after receiving the anonymous complaint, on 22 April 22 2021, the two alleged CSRL operators were linked to the process for not having permits to manufacture or manipulate explosives reserved for the armed forces; in addition to possessing weapons and ammunition for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy and Air Force.” Rogelio "L" was also reported as Rogelio "N" in some reports. 

[5] In English, the title reads: “Pioneers in the use of drones with explosives fall [are arrested] in Puebla.” The text reads: “Two manufacturers of drones with explosives that work for the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, were arrested for violating the Federal Law on Firearms and Explosives and linked to the process by a control judge.” … “According to federal authorities, on 22 March, an investigation began, after anonymous complaints indicated that several people who produce this type of instrument were in the state of Puebla, therefore, the authorization and order to arrest Diego ‘J’ and Rogelio ‘N’ was granted.” … “The arrests were made by elements of the Federal Ministerial Police, ministerial personnel, and elements of the Mexican Army at a home in the municipality of Cholula in Puebla.”

[6] See Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #49: Alleged CJNG Drone Attack in Aguililla, Michoacán Injures Two Police Officers.” Small Wars Journal. 28 April 2021, https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/mexican-cartel-tactical-note-49-alleged-cjng-drone-attack-aguililla-michoacan-injures-two.

[7] Hiroto Saito, “Weaponized Drones in Mexico: Game-Changer or Gimmick?” InSight Crime. 6 May 2021, https://insightcrime.org/news/weaponized-drones-mexico-game-changer-gimmick/.

[8] See “Comunicado FGR 148/21. FGR obtiene vinculación a proceso para dos hombres detenidos, uno en Puebla y otro en Morelos [Press Release FGR 148/21. FGR obtains connection to the process for two detained men, one in Puebla and the other in Morelos.” Mexico City: Fiscalía General de la República (FGR). 24 April 2021, https://www.gob.mx/fgr/prensa/comunicado-fgr-148-21-fgr-obtiene-vinculacion-a-proceso-para-dos-hombres-detenidos-uno-en-puebla-y-otro-en-morelos.

[9] See for example, John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 27: Confronting the State—Explosive Artifacts, Threats, Huachicoleros, and Cartel Competition in Guanajuato, MX.” Small Wars Journal. 14 March 2021, https://smallwarsjournal.com/index.php/jrnl/art/mexican-cartel-strategic-note-no-27-confronting-state-explosive-artifacts-threats and Nathan P. Jones and John P. Sullivan, “Huachicoleros: Criminal Cartels, Fuel Theft, and Violence in Mexico.” Journal of Strategic Security. Vol. 12, No. 4, 2019: pp. 1-24: https://doi.org/10.5038/1944-0472.12.4.1742.

Additional Reading

Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #49: Alleged CJNG Drone Attack in Aguililla, Michoacán Injures Two Police Officers.” Small Wars Journal, 28 April 2021.

Robert J. Bunker, John P. Sullivan, and David A. Kuhn, “Use of Weaponized Consumer Drones in Mexican Crime War.” Counter-IED Report.  Winter 2020-2021: pp. 69-77.

Robert J. Bunker, John P. Sullivan, David A. Kuhn, and Alma Keshavarz, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #46: Weaponized Drones (Aerial Improvised Explosive Devices) Deployed by CJNG in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.Small Wars Journal. 5 October 2020.

 

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an Instructor at the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. Dr. Bunker has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at docbunker@smallwarsjournal.com.   
 

Dr. John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California. Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” He can be reached at jpsullivan@smallwarsjournal.com.