Posted on Tue 16 March 2010

This explains a lot about the drug war in Mexico

This is beyond parody, the Mexican Army spent 10 million dollars on plastic boxes attached to antennas —modern versions of divining rods— and used them to find drugs and weapons. Supposedly you could program them to find all sorts of things, with special cards, which invariably turned out to be nothing but pieces of paper. No wonder Ciudad Juarez turned into the most violent city in the world [update: there’s a better version of this chart in the next post]after the army took control of it (chart made with ggplot).

As of April 20, 2009, the army had purchased 521 of the GT 200 detectors for just over $20,000 apiece, for a total cost of more than $10 million, according to Mexican government documents. Police agencies across Mexico have made additional purchases, records show.

“We’ve had success with it,” Capt. Jesús Héctor Larios Salazar, an officer with the Mexican Army’s antidrug unit in Culiacán, said recently. “It works with molecules. It functions with the energy of the body.”
 It’s got molecules… There’s more:
In Culiacán, a city in Sinaloa State where Mexican drug traffickers have a strong presence, the military showed off the GT 200 in December. Canvassing a residential neighborhood, soldiers walked up and down the street with a GT 200 waiting for the antenna to point toward a suspicious residence. There were no discoveries.

But the soldier trained to operate the detector walked by one of the army’s armored vehicles and the antenna swung quickly toward the high-caliber machine gun sticking out the top. He took several steps back and walked by again. The antenna pointed again toward the gun.

“See?” he said.

But in November, at a checkpoint on the highway leading from Mexico City to Monterrey, the same device pointed at a Volkswagen containing a man, a woman and a child. Soldiers surrounded the vehicle and a search was conducted for illegal drugs. But all they found was a bottle of Tylenol — evidence, the soldier operating the device said, of how sensitive the GT 200 was.
Since they were pretty expensive, I wonder if money from the Merida Initiative was used to buy this things.

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