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The Mexican military has been trying and failing for months to bring down a jerry-rigged radio system that the brutal Zetas cartel uses to run both its drug business and its related killing sprees. Michael Weissenstein with the Associated Press describes the order of operations:

The alert goes out from a taxi driver or a street vendor, equipped with a high-end handheld radio and paid to work as a lookout known as a "halcon," or hawk.

The radio signal travels deep into the arid countryside, hours by foot from the nearest road. There, the 8-foot-tall (2-meter-tall) dark-green branches of the rockrose bush conceal a radio tower painted to match. A cable buried in the dirt draws power from a solar panel. A signal-boosting repeater relays the message along a network of powerful antennas and other repeaters that stretch hundreds of miles (kilometers) across Mexico, a shadow communications system allowing the cartel to coordinate drug deliveries, kidnapping, extortion and other crimes with the immediacy and precision of a modern military or law-enforcement agency.

This sounds absolutely horrifying, particularly the part about cables buried in the dirt. That part stands out mostly because the Zetas make a point of not burying its victims, often choosing to dangle their mutilated bodies from highway overpasses or leaving them propped up in the town square to show off how ruthless their cartel is. As Wired's Spencer Ackerman suggests, it might be time for the United States to offer a little help in the form of military grade radio jammers. Anything would be better than the tremendous failure to help stop the violence in Mexico known as the "Fast and Furious" operation, which is now infamous for selling the cartels a bunch of assault rifles.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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