Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Mexican cartels get heavy weapons from CentAm, U.S. cables say
The most fearsome weapons wielded by Mexico's drug cartels enter the country from Central America, not the United States, according to U.S. diplomatic cables disseminated by WikiLeaks and published here Tuesday by La Jornada newspaper.
Items such as grenades and rocket-launchers are stolen from Central American armies and smuggled into Mexico via neighboring Guatemala, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City reported to Washington.
The assertions appear in embassy cables written after three bilateral conferences on arms trafficking that took place between March 2009 and January 2010 in Cuernavaca, Mexico; Phoenix; and Tapachula, Mexico, respectively.
The cables' authors note that Mexican officials and politicians never hesitate to remind U.S. diplomats that Mexico's drug war - which has claimed 35,000 lives in the last four years - is fueled by Americans' demand for illegal drugs and by guns bought in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Yet one of the cables maintains that 90 percent of the heavy armament Mexican security forces seize from cartel gunmen comes from Central America.
The cable, which does not offer any particulars or supporting documentation, does acknowledge that the vast majority of the handguns and many of the assault rifles used by the cartels enter Mexico from the United States.
A message drafted after the October 2009 conference in Tapachula blamed the Mexican government for not doing enough to patrol the southern border with Guatemala.
"While there are 30,000 U.S. CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officers on the 1,926 mile Mexican/U.S. border, only 125 Mexican immigration officials monitor the 577 mile border with Guatemala," the embassy cable says.
La Jornada's publication of the cables follows revelations in the United States about a botched sting operation, "Fast and Furious," that saw members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allow close to 2,000 weapons to be smuggled from Arizona to Mexico over 15 months.
Around 1,200 of the those guns were never tracked down by authorities, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a U.S. think-tank.
U.S. President Barack Obama said that neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder gave authorization for Fast and Furious.
View cable 10MEXICO77, MEXICO: TAPACHULA ARMS CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON SOUTHERN BORDER