Reporting from Zihuatanejo, Mexico, and Mexico City -- It was a brazen assault, not just because it targeted the city's police station, but for the choice of weapon: grenades.
The Feb. 21 attack on police headquarters in coastal Zihuatanejo, which injured four people, fit a disturbing trend of Mexico's drug wars. Traffickers have escalated their arms race, acquiring military-grade weapons, including hand grenades, grenade launchers, armor-piercing munitions and antitank rockets with firepower far beyond the assault rifles and pistols that have dominated their arsenals.
Most of these weapons are being smuggled from Central American countries or by sea, eluding U.S. and Mexican monitors who are focused on the smuggling of semiautomatic and conventional weapons purchased from dealers in the U.S. border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
The proliferation of heavier armaments points to a menacing new stage in the Mexican government's 2-year-old war against drug organizations, which are evolving into a more militarized force prepared to take on Mexican army troops, deployed by the thousands, as well as to attack each other.
These groups appear to be taking advantage of a robust global black market and porous borders, especially between Mexico and Guatemala. Some of the weapons are left over from the wars that the United States helped fight in Central America, U.S. officials said.
"There is an arms race between the cartels," said Alberto Islas, a security consultant who advises the Mexican government. "One group gets rocket-propelled grenades, the other has to have them."
But in Zihuatanejo? The personal paradise of Andy Dufresne? Inconceivable!