Mexican Drug Cartel Uses Kidnapped Engineers to Secure Communications

If there is one organization on the planet that you absolutely, positively do not want headhunting you – it would probably have to be Mexico’s infamous Zeta drug cartel.

Due to the clandestine nature of their business, it is hard to put an exact figure on Zeta turnover, but it would be fair to say that the cartel gives a good number of Fortune 500 companies a run for their money. They’re big, dangerous, employ a lot of people and need to communicate – without their conversations being intercepted by the military, police or any number of competing organizations that tend to take the term “hostile takeover” a little too literally. While it is not hard to see why the Zeta cartel has spent the last four years establishing its own radio network, how they did it is a story that will make any IT engineer worth his or her weight in salt sleep a little less easily.

According to Mexican news site Animal Politico the group has spent the last four years headhunting and kidnapping engineers and technicians to build its radio network. At the time of writing, no fewer than 36 engineers and technicians have disappeared; among them have been at least one IBM employee and several communications technicians who worked for a firm owned by Mexico’s largest construction company. When the military finds network infrastructure, it is dismantled – but for the most part, it is easily replaced. To give an idea of the scope of the project, last year, the military took down 167 radio antennas.

Felipe Gonzalez, head of Mexico’s Senate Security Committee, put explained:

The fact that skilled workers have been disappearing in these areas is no accident.

As to the fate of the engineers in question, the outcome would seem to be rather ominous. According to Gonzalez, “none of the systems engineers who disappeared have been found.” They have never been held for ransom. The father of one kidnapped engineer put it simply:

When they need specialists they catch them, use them, and discard them.

From Wired:

One engineer, named Jose Antonio, was kidnapped in January 2009 while talking on the phone with his girlfriend outside a mechanics shop. He worked for ICA Fluor Daniel, a construction company jointly owned by U.S.-based Fluor Corporation and ICA, Mexico’s largest construction firm. Antonio’s family contacted the authorities, but were instead visited by a man claiming to be an ICA employee along with two Zetas. “They said they were going to help us, and that our contact would be ICA’s security chief,” said the kidnapped engineer’s mother. But the group’s message was implicit: Don’t pursue this, or else. The cartel members were later arrested, but Antonio never returned.
Alejandro Moreno, an IBM engineer kidnapped in January 2011 while traveling from Monterrey to the Texas border city of Laredo, hasn’t been heard from since. In 2009, nine contractors hired to build radio antennas in the border city of Nuevo Laredo — a Zetas stronghold — were kidnapped from a rented apartment by masked gunmen. They were taken with their vehicles and equipment.

At the time of writing it is unclear how the cartel has been selecting its victims; whether the Zetas are targeting individuals or the position – but anyone fitting the job description might want to think twice about what they post on social media sites… no sense in making it easier for them.
[Source; Image credit:]


About the author: C. S. Magor


C.S. Magor is the editor-in-chief and reporter at large for Uberreview and We Interrupt. He currently resides in a sleepy basin town in the Japanese countryside - where both his bank balance and the lack of space in his home are testament to his addiction to all things shiny.

Follow @csmagor on Twitter



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