Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mexican cartels' familiar weapons

U.S.-made grenades sent to fight communism turn up again, with different targets

By Nick Miroff and William Booth
The Washington Post
Grenades made in the United States and sent to Central America during the Cold War have resurfaced as terrifying new weapons in almost weekly attacks by Mexican drug cartels.

Sent a generation ago to battle communist revolutionaries in the jungles of Central America, U.S. grenades are being diverted from dusty old armories and sold to criminal mafias, who are using them to destabilize the Mexican government and terrorize civilians, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials.

The redeployment of U.S.-made grenades by Mexican drug lords underscores the increasingly intertwined nature of the conflict, as President Felipe Calderon sends his soldiers out to confront gangs armed with a deadly combination of brand-new military-style assault rifles purchased in the United States and munitions left over from the Cold War.

Grenades have killed a relatively small number of the 25,000 people who have died since Mr. Calderon launched his U.S.-backed offensive against the cartels. But the grenades pack a far greater psychological punch than the ubiquitous AK-47s and AR-15 rifles -- they can overwhelm and intimidate outgunned soldiers and police while reminding ordinary Mexicans that the country is literally at war.

There have been more than 72 grenade attacks in Mexico in the last year, including spectacular assaults on police convoys and public officials. Mexican forces have seized more than 5,800 live grenades since 2007, a small fraction of a vast armory maintained by the drug cartels, officials said.

According to the Mexican attorney general's office, there have been 101 grenade attacks against government buildings since December 2006, information now made public for the first time. To fight back, U.S. experts in grenades and other explosives are now working side by side with Mexican counterparts.

The majority of grenades have been traced back to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, according to investigations by agents at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and their Mexican counterparts. ATF has also found that almost 90 percent of the grenades confiscated and traced in Mexico are more than 20 years old.

The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush sent 300,000 hand grenades to friendly regimes in Central America to fight leftist insurgents in the civil wars of the 1980s and early 1990s, according to declassified military data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Federation of American Scientists.


Not all grenades found in Mexico are American-made. Many are of Asian or Soviet and Eastern European manufacture, ATF officials said, probably given to leftist insurgents by Cuba and Nicaragua's Sandinistas.

One of the most common hand grenades found in Mexico is the M67, the workhorse explosive manufactured in the United States for American soldiers and for sale or transfer to foreign militaries. Some 266,000 M67 grenades went to El Salvador alone between 1980 and 1993, during the civil war there.

Now selling for $100 to $500 apiece on the black market, grenades have exploded in practically every region of Mexico in recent years.

In the past year, assailants have rolled grenades into brothels in the border city of Reynosa. They have hurled one at the U.S. consulate in nearby Nuevo Leon state. They have launched them at a military barracks in Tampico and at a television station in Nayarit state.

In the state of Durango, 10 students, most teenagers but some as young as 8, were ripped apart on their way to receive government scholarships in March when attacked with grenades at a cartel checkpoint. The blasts tore a gaping hole in the side of their pickup, peeling back the door panel as if it were a soda can.

"They are a way to spread fear and terror," said Paulino Jimenez Hildago, a retired Mexican army general. "And they're a way to gain the upper hand over the authorities."

Grenade attacks began in 2007 in response to the expanded role of the military in anti-narcotics enforcement and the rise of the Zetas, the fearsome cartel founded by former special-forces soldiers, according to Martin Barron Cruz, an expert in arms and security at Mexico's National Institute of Criminal Sciences, a government agency.

"It's an arms race," Mr. Barron said.

Demand for military hardware is soaring, he said, citing recent seizures of .50-caliber rifles, mortars and anti-personnel mines.

The criminal organizations are demonstrating a growing tactical knowledge about how to use grenades in close quarter combat.

"They're a good way to cover your retreat or to initiate an attack," said Anna Gilmour, a drug-war expert at IHS Jane's, a global security consulting firm. "You can use them as a means of spreading confusion."

As one senior U.S. law enforcement official in Mexico put it, grenades are "a lazy man's killing weapon" because they don't require good aim. "You don't have to be able to hit a bull's-eye. You just roll it out," he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of security protocols.

Frequently, grenades are left unexploded at attack scenes. U.S. officials attribute this to operator error rather than the age of the munitions, since grenades can last for decades if stored properly. While some seized grenades are covered in rust or dirt, others are in mint condition, suggesting they may have been removed recently from military stores.

ATF and its Mexican counterparts consider information about the source country and specific make of grenades classified. Federal police in Mexico are now offering $200 -- about six weeks' pay at minimum wage in Mexico -- as a reward for every grenade turned over to authorities.

Interviews with military, police and U.S. law enforcement agents in Central America suggest authorities are increasingly concerned about preventing thefts from grenade stockpiles but are virtually powerless to prevent the spread of weapons that are already loose.

"Almost all of the attacks we've seen have been with M67s," said Howard Cotto, a chief investigator with El Salvador's National Civil Police. "There are so many of them floating around here."

17 comments:

  1. I know the article says that the army is offering money for every unexploded grenade that gets turned in, but the last thing I would do is walk up to the Mex Army with a grenade on my person saying "Here, this is for you now where's my reward?" They would prob torture me to try and find out where I got it.

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  2. 90% GUNS IN MEXICO ARE FROM THE US???? REALLY?
    Obama is wrong...Clington is wrong
    17%? FOX is wrong..
    Facts must be clear to be effective

    IT IS BETWEEN 34-36%
    go to:

    http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/counting-mexicos-guns/

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  3. Federation of American Scientists?..... N.W.O....Sorry!...Republican Party`s Reagan and Bush sent granades for fight communists outside the U.S.A. Who`s the factory owner? Who`s buying Drugs to the Sinaloenses and Tamaulipecos. Forget granades, the ACTUALS R-15`s are the problem!, Who send this kind of guns to the MEXICAN LORD DRUGS? For whom the BELL TOLLS??????????????????????????????????

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  4. La Nueva Orden del Mundo.....perdòn!....Que los repùblicanos Reagan y Bush mandaron granadas para combatir comunistas fuera de los Estados Unidos?....Quen es el dueño de la fabrica?...Quien compra la droga a los Sinaloences y Tamaulipecos? Olviden las granadas, quien vende las ACTUALES R-15`s a LOS CAPOS MEXICANOS?......Por quièn SUENAN LAS CAMPANAS?

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  5. 70% OF THE US POPULATION ARE DRUG ADDICTED????REALLY?
    I hope some day read in internet some kind of american sites counting american drug addicted and not american guns sold to Mexicans.
    I`m just a Mexican citizen living between the violence, violence created by Mexicans and Americans.

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  6. Ok...blame the americans, see how far that will go to get help of any kind. Most americans can't be bothered with the truth, and with Mexicans blaming americans see what results from that..NADA. The blame is on the shoulders of the corrupt Mexican government, not the us, not cartels, not the drug users...THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT past, present & undoubtly the future.
    The stupido blaming Bush and Regan..ok lets make deal keep your drugs and we will keep our guns.

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  7. Natural Disasters, Cartel Wars. I was wondering when George Bush would be blamed for this also. String up the Mexican president along with all of his cabinet just like Hussein

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  8. No ones blaming republicans just stating a simple fact of where the grenades came from. Mexico wont overcome this till they have a leader ready to fight the cartels with the same tactics they use. A death penalty needs to be put into affect to subdue the violence and end the cartels grip. As an american republican i know that the U.S. needs policy changes as well when we approach the drug issue its not a war on drugs its a war on humanity now

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  9. Didn't blame the republicans? Obviously you do not speak spanish...that is who I was addressing. For the record I am Mexican-AMerican granddaughter of immigrants from Mexico, I love the culture of my ancestry, and conduct humanatarian work in Mexico where I have my offices. I know up close & personal what is happening and it breaks my heart, but I do not know how much longer I can stay there. But I hate the ignorant bullshit blame game and yes usually against Bush 1 or 2. and yes I am a republican, a mexican republican..just imagine...because I will not allow anyone to choose for me my ideolgy, religion, or beliefs. The new Mexican will study, research and choose for oneself. My belief is fuck the politicians that historically woo our vote and dissapear, it is much more desirable to forget special interests and strive for the betterment of all citizens...wow...thanks I feel better now..

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  10. I just read an incredible book and recommend it to you that care and want to understand exactly what has happened and why the so called war against drugs in Mexico cannot be won....

    MURDER CITY by Charles Bowden (love this guy)

    If you read the article posted by this blog that printed in the Boston Review most of her info was directly from the pages of this book

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  11. That is a good book. Mr Bowden has written quite a few on the topic of border violence.

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  12. ...well if it isn't 90% and it isn't 17% then I guess the the amount is zero...because until every gun is counted someone like you won't buy the statistic; and of course use it as a pretext to not do shit about it. Same thing is done with the climate change debate, same thing done with the immigration debate, same thing is done with every other debate where everyone knows the truth but since the numbers aren't accurate, no credence is lent to the the fact a problem even exists.

    Same shitbirds as always.

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  13. All the governements in the world are the worst piece of shit and all the people who support(stupid assholes) them deserve to d...

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  14. a large majority of weapons are brought into Columbia smuggled through the Darien province and coastal waters of Panama the shipped out to mexico. espcially Chicom AK's RPG's and eastern european pistols ammunition etc. I am sure there are weapons smuggled back from the US but not the amount the current administration claims

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  15. I think by what history show us in elections we here in america are going to elect the most far right politician ever seen. This means the Far right politician will listen the far right extremist and you will have no more immigration and you will have the military at the border. If Obama would have been a half way decent president and done half of what he said he would do it was highly likely for him to be reelected but there is absolutely noway he will see another term. Just like Jimmy Carter all over again have one bad democrat and you will see nothing but far right politicians in office for 16 years. Sad

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  16. An American gun means American gun no matter how you want it to call it or thru where is comming from? nobody has have control of it! and nobody will. we have pass so many laws to reduce the amount of assault rifles but its on our constitution the right to bear arms not you or i can`t change that!i know a person who works for the Z this guy was pick up by military service personel @ Monterrey he was beat up and left out at the Autopista Monterrey Laredo as death we did`nt know were he was for 2weeks but now he comes back and he a big fish at a city close to Monterrey,I reported him to Authorities but no one as come to pick him up i tell you why? he has cops working for him,Halcones,Ministerials,federales,y Soldados.the bad thing of all this he still doing the same all shit levantando gente selling drugs,bribe all kind of authorities so he can work any way he wants with All AMERICAN GUNS who cares right! i hope you or any of your relatives never go to Mexico and get kidnaped and get kill by an American Gun,love life hate death but when you decide to go to Mexico you are death already.remember that guns doesn`t care were you commming from!!!

    ReplyDelete

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