Frontera Norte Sur
A man arrested in connection with the largest reported weapons seizure in recent Mexican history remains jailed in a maximum security prison outside Mexico City.
Jaime Gonzalez Duran, alias “The Hummer,” was arrested November 7, 2009 along with two other men in the northern border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, by the Mexican army and Federal Preventive Police.
In the Reynosa raid, federal authorities confiscated 428 guns, 287 grenades and more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition. A rocket launcher, fourteen sticks of TNT and other explosive material were also recovered. A military deserter, Gonzalez is alleged to be a co-founder of the Zetas crime gang, which hatched as the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel but reportedly later branched out on its own to at least 17 Mexican states and the Federal District.
In the aftermath of Gonzalez’s detention, the Mexican press quoted a document attributed to federal security agencies and the armed forces that detailed weapons confiscations from December 1, 2006 to October 30, 2008, the first 23 months of the administration of President Felipe Calderon.
Mexican officials purportedly seized 25,657 guns- including 13,807 assault and other rifles- 1,642 grenades and 2.4 million rounds of ammunition.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the arms were seized in the states of Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Jalisco, Sonora, and Chihuahua, all entities with high degrees of narco-violence. The Gulf Cartel was the organization hit hardest by the law enforcement actions, according to the report. Authorities linked seizures of M72 and AT-4 anti-tank rockets, RPG-7 grenade launchers and other military weaponry to the criminal organization.
The Reynosa bust and subsequent revelations of weapons confiscations raise important questions. Mexican and US law enforcement authorities routinely pin the soaring levels of narco-violence in Mexico on gun-smuggling from the United States, where firearms are much easier to legally obtain. Legal gun shops and gun shows are frequently cited as sources for the deadly contraband, and sometimes arrests are made.
To stem the flow of weapons across the border, proposals are or in place or in the air to tighten sales at US gun shows, increase vehicle checkpoints at border crossings and improve data bases of weapons purchases by US citizens so guns could be better traced if they wind up in the wrong hands south of the border.
Recently, Mexican military police randomly stopped and searched pedestrians on one of the international bridges between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Yet many of the weapons confiscated in Reynosa and elsewhere in the Mexican Republic are not run-of-the mill guns for sale at the corner store or weekend show. In the US, it is simply not legal to sell grenades and anti-tank missiles alongside deer rifles. And AK-47s, the preferred weapon of the narco gunslinger, are manufactured in many different countries.
So, what then is the origin of the bulk of illicit weapons used in Mexico? Are significant numbers of US gun dealers maintaining legal fronts just to run an illegal cross-border business? Are crates of automatic weapons from throughout the world somehow sneaking by Mexican port inspectors? Are government officials in both the US and Mexico with access to military weaponry operating a bloody but profitable business? Unfortunately, few answers to these questions have been forthcoming. With respect to grenades, for example, Mexican authorities have yet to publicly reveal how so many of the devices are floating around and exploding across the country.
Meanwhile, guns and bombs continue to blaze across Mexico. In one 24-hour period in Ciudad Juarez earlier this week, at least 11 people were slain gangland-style, including two men and two women who were gunned down during broad daylight in front of a hospital. A headless body was dumped in front of a police station, while another couple was machine-gunned while driving on a busy street in the center of the border city.
In the Baja California cities of Tijuana and Playas de Rosarito, 9 killings initiated a bloody week that continued to get bloodier. The victims included Omar Rodriguez, an ex-state police agent and a former bodyguard for world boxing champ Erick “El Terrible” Morales, and 33-year-old Alejandro Esquivel Baez, who was shot in his home by assassins as he ate dinner with his wife and two young daughters.
In Sinaloa, between 50-100 armed men traveling in 15 pickup trucks kidnapped 27 men identified as agricultural laborers November 10 from La Guajira tomato and cucumber farm, a property linked to an in-law of the Carrillo Fuentes family of Juarez Cartel fame. And in Chihuahua City, also the scene of numerous executions, firebombs scorched the chic Maria Chuchena restaurant and El Dorado seafood diner in an upscale section of the city. On November 11, bomb threats prompted the closure of one university campus and the evacuation of the Plaza del Sol mall.
According to a story in El Universal, nearly 4,500 people have been murdered in narco-related incidents during 2008 so far-a record high.
Sources: Norte, November 11, 2008. Article by Carlos Huerta. Frontera, November 11, 2008. Univision, November 11, 2008. Lapolaka.com, November 10, 11 and 12, 2008. La Jornada, November 8, 10 and 11, 2008. Articles by Gustavo Castillo, Miroslava Breach, Antonio Heras, editorial staff, and the Notimex news agency. El Universal, November 11 and 12, 2008. Articles by Javier Cabrera and the EFE news service.