Will Mexico Use Armed Drones Against Marijuana Farmers?


Photo: Project for the New American Century
Israeli Hermes 450 drones can be heavily armed, and they’ve been bought by the Mexican military for their Drug War. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what could happen next.

​Mexico has bought Israeli-made unmanned drone aircraft, the government said, which may be used to spot hidden marijuana fields as officials continue their bloody Drug War against powerful cartels.

But is that all the drones — which can be heavily armed — will be used for? After all, this is the Mexican military that has bought the drones, for use in their Drug War which has already claimed 28,000 lives in the past four years.
And these are the exact same drones that were responsible for at least 48 deaths during Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza.
With neither side in the Drug War — the Mexican military and the cartels — having shown any compunctions about bloodshed, it doesn’t take much imagination to see what could happen next.

Graphic: Women Say No To War!

​Mexico’s defense ministry said it bought an unspecified number of the Hermes 450 drones last year from Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd for $23.25 million, report Pablo Garibian and Robin Emmott at Reuters.
The defense ministry refused to say exactly how it planned to use the drones. 
The Israeli Air Force, which operates a Hermes 450 squadron out of Palmachim Airbase south of Tel Aviv, uses the drones as assault vehicles, reportedly equipping them with two Hellfire missiles each, or, alternatively, two Rafael-made missiles.
The U.S. military uses its own, American-made drones, which work on the same principles as the Israeli Hermes 450 craft. American drones have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds or thousands of Afghan and Pakistani civilians in the past few years.
The military is likely using the remote-controlled unmanned aircraft to at least spot clandestine drug fields, if not actually attack the farmers, according to Javier Oliva, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
The drones can fly for 20 hours and have cameras onboard, and are probably being used to locate marijuana and opium growing in the northwestern states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chiahuahua, according to Oliva.
“These are areas that are very difficult for troops to reach,” Oliva said.
The Mexican military has started using the planes over the past five to six months, according to the security analyst.
Mexico is a major producer of marijuana and of opium poppies, which are processed into heroin. The country also serves as a main transit route for South American cocaine headed towards the United States.
President Felipe Calderon launched a major military-backed assault on Mexican drug cartels upon taking office in late 2006, backed with millions of dollars from Washington, D.C.
So far, more than 28,000 people have died in Calderon’s drug war, without any noticeable decrease in the drug trade.
President Calderon said on Tuesday he was sticking to his strategy, even though more bloodshed is inevitable.
The Mexican defense ministry made the drones’ purchase public under Mexico’s freedom of information rules after a request from leading Mexican newspaper La Jornada.