The United States is the world's most lucrative drug market and the fight to supply it is unrelenting [source: Moore]. In fact, the problem shows signs of getting worse. In June 2011, Mexican officials seized a fleet of much larger narco tanks. Instead of modified pickups, these began life as three-axel equipment trucks with the capacity to transport 20 heavily armed goons [source:Johnson].
But there is hope. With more than a billion dollars from the Merida Initiative still appropriated to arm Mexican law enforcement entities with the equipment and training, the hope is that civilian security forces can assume some of the burden that has fallen to the Mexican military. This redistribution of responsibilities should prevent the military from being stretched thin by having to fight the cartels as well as manage its traditional role of defending the country against external threats [source: U.S. Department of State].
Of course, as long as the U.S. demand for illegal drugs remains high, combating the supply portion of this supply-and-demand cycle will be difficult. To put U.S. consumption into perspective, consider that in 2009 more than 11 percent of the population over 12 years old reported using marijuana [source: Department of Health and Human Services]. That's a lot of dope.
Until the demand for illicit drugs is brought under control, suppliers will do whatever they can to fill that very specialized, very lucrative niche. These hyper-modified vehicles are just one of the symbols emerging from an ugly and protracted fight. With so much at stake, and with law enforcement struggling to manage the trafficking crisis in Mexico, the cartels will likely continue to employ narco tanks and other aggressive methods.