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Monday, July 30, 2007

Bombings and Other Explosive Actions in Mexico

By Barnard R. Thompson

Guerrilla Weaponry and IEDs

Mexican insurgents of the Popular Revolutionary Army, the EPR, exploded (literally) back into the limelight with the bombings of natural gas pipelines in central Mexico on July 5 and July 10, and via their communiqués claiming responsibility.  Radicals who have been around in their EPR cloak for a decade; guerrillas who employ firearms most often as their weapons of choice and convenience, although the occasional use of explosive devices has also gone on for years.

Furthermore, while in the past EPR insurgents and their associates have sporadically gone after economic targets (especially when their penchant was for kidnapping), more often their attacks were against government facilities, police and even the military with guns and other munitions.

But with the successful use of bombs, regardless of their sophistication, plastic explosives, and other kinds of “improvised explosive devices” (euphemistically called IEDs) in hot spots throughout the world by terrorists, irregular combatants and zealots — plus the accompanying publicity, explosives could become preferred weapons in Mexico.

This would seem to be even more of a possibility with lasting links to Central Americans who reportedly have stockpiles leftover from conflicts of the 1970s to 1990s; arms availability from criminal gangs, guerrilla organizations, and even government sources in Andean ridge countries; a possible ready supply from druglords and their hit men who, with money being no object have access to whatever money can buy; and maybe even tradeoffs with terrorists from further abroad.

Making things worse, Mexico’s guerrilla organizations may already have all of the explosives they need.

Since the turn of the century, in a number of the bombings that occurred in Mexico, ANFO and Tovex were the explosives used.  In addition, many suspect that Semtex, a Czech-made plastic explosive that has become famous for its use in terrorist bombings, was used in some of the bombings over the past six to seven years.

ANFO (ammonium nitrate-fuel oil) is a blasting agent used in mining and construction, among other things.  As well, this is often used to make so-called fertilizer bombs.

Tovex is a water gel explosive that is also used in mining, construction and like activities.  Tovex was developed by Dupont to replace nitroglycerine and nitroglycerine-based dynamite, and it has soared in popularity insofar as it is safer to manufacture, transport, store and use.

The explosives used, which are apparently in the hands of EPR associates, were stolen in two known robberies of mining and construction firms, the first in San Luis Potosí in 2003, and the second in Oaxaca in 2006.  According to Mexico’s Office of the Attorney General (PGR), approximately 1,900 of the stolen “RXL-788 emulsion explosive” devices are in the hands of two EPR splinter groups, the “Comando Jaramillista Morelense 23 de Mayo,” and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People (FARP).

The PGR also states in a report that the EPR, and one of its political wings, the Popular Revolutionary Democratic Party (PDPR), have distributed instruction manuals to their different cells, a how to guide explaining the chemical process to follow in order to assemble, arm and detonate the explosives.  Among other details, it also shows and tells just where a bomb should be placed to cause maximum destruction.

Security has of course been escalated in Mexico, and the military is now guarding pipelines.  Interestingly, some of the Army personnel deployed for this new mission had just stepped down from drug war duties, as some 5,000 soldiers have reportedly been withdrawn from that task.

President Felipe Calderón has also further mobilized the Mexican Navy and Air Force to protect and defend the nation’s strategic installations against any and all enemies.

Last in a series.

See Mexican Rebels and Their Assault on the Future,” by Barnard R. Thompson, MexiData.info, July 23, 2007; and

“Mexico’s So-called ‘Popular Revolutionary Army,’” by Barnard R. Thompson, MexiData.info, July 16, 2007.

 

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Barnard Thompson, editor of MexiData.info, has spent nearly 50 years in Mexico and Latin America, providing multinational clients with actionable intelligence; country and political risk reporting and analysis; and business, lobbying, and problem resolution services.  He can be reached via e-mail at mexidata@ix.netcom.com.