CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) — A drug cartel in the northern state of Tamaulipas used at least 39 surveillance cameras to monitor the comings and goings of authorities in the city of Reynosa across the border from Texas, Mexican officials said Friday.
The cameras were powered by electric lines above the city streets and accessed the Internet through phone cables along the same poles, according to a statement from state authorities. The cameras included modems and were capable of operating wirelessly or through commercial providers' lines.
The revelation came one day after President Enrique Pena Nieto visited the city, but authorities said the cameras were seized Monday and Tuesday.
Several of the cameras were trained on an army base, while others captured movement outside a marine post, offices of the attorney general and state police as well as shopping centers, major thoroughfares and some neighborhoods.
An official with the state's security coordination group, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to release details on the case, said the cartel's cameras were revealed when the government's own surveillance cameras detected suspicious people making installations on poles.
Once discovered, authorities simply thought about the places the cartel would most like to monitor and looked for more cameras there, he said.
Once cartel members realized authorities had discovered their network, they took down 18 cameras before authorities could seize them.
Authorities did not identify the cartel. But Reynosa, which is across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas, has been the scene of intense violence in recent months between suspected factions of the Gulf cartel.
Cartels have long used "halcones," or hawks, stationed strategically around their turf to monitor the movements of authorities and rivals. The camera surveillance network would simply be a technological progression on the same idea and one that is increasingly employed by governments around the world to fight crime.
Cartels for years have erected their own communications networks in the border area, complete with their own antennas. Since the start of the year, Mexican authorities have seized 55 radio communication antennas between the border cities of Matamoros and Miguel Aleman.