WikiLeaks en La Jornada
Bushmaster assault type weapon on dead sicario, Nuevo Leon, 2011
In addition to weapons smuggled from the U.S., drug traffickers and criminal gangs in Mexico are also making use of another arms source to supply their gunmen. They also using weapons imported legally through proper channels by Sedena, Mexico’s Ministry of Defence that at some point in their path to their final recipient are "diverted" and fall into the wrong hands.
This is the story of an R-15 rifle recovered by Michoacan state police after a confrontation between municipal police and gunmen in the town of Panindícuaro on November 18, 2009.
The weapon was imported in 2006 and delivered in 2007 to the Ministry of Public Security in the state of Michoacan. After reaching its destination the weapon was "lost." U.S. agents conducting the investigation concluded that Michoacan authorities "have no reliable mechanisms" for the safeguard of its arsenal.
This R-15 is just a drop in the so-called "iron river" (referring to the uncontrolled flow of arms) that enters the country legally or illegally and has given organized crime, today, more firepower than the State, according to the government itself.
According to information contained in a pair of cables released by WikiLeaks (09MEXICO3376 and 09STATES7530) the journey of this “lost” R-15 was reconstructed by Blue Lantern (an end-use monitoring program for arms exports managed by the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Political Military Affairs, DDTC office) and the ATF’s E-Trace program.
Blue Lantern keeps a strict registry of all documents concerning U.S. arms exports (which are massive and distributed worldwide) and aims to ensure that all routes from the manufacturer or vendor to its final destination are legally documented.
The R-15, serial number L428091, was part of a consignment of one thousand and thirty 5.56mm rifles bought from Bushmaster International, a manufacturer based in Maine, a leading global provider of this type of weapon, which has two variants: the "sport" and the military model.
Sedena made the purchase in 2006 under the license 050016624, to provide weapons to the state police agencies of Michoacán, Baja California and Chihuahua.
These contracts specifically prohibit any subsequent resale of the weapons. Sedena is the only entity allowed to import weapons into Mexico and their exportation is legally banned.
The first consignment of 507 weapons arrived in Laredo, Texas, on December 12, 2006. According to the documentation this first lot included the serial number L428091. On January 5, 2007, the remaining lot of 523 weapons arrived.
On January 10, 2007, Sedena personnel received the shipment in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. An armaments broker, and Bushmaster's legal representative in Mexico, Eduardo Jordán, acted as sales agent.
The Customs agency Central de Aduanas de Mexico, S.A. de C.V., with offices in Monterrey that specialize in imports and exports through Laredo-Nuevo Laredo port of entry, managed all the customs permits and moved the shipment through the port of entry to make the transfer. All parties were under the microscope of ATF and Blue Lantern.
Finally, the authorities demanded that Sedena demonstrate step by step the legality of the operation. "Sedena insists that it undertakes a very strict control over all the weapons that enter Mexico legally," says the cable.
On May 15, Sedena sent a batch of 121 R-15 rifles to the Public Security Secretariat of Michoacan. On behalf of the state government an official named Francisco Gabriel Huerta signed receipt. L428091 was included in that batch. And there the trail of L428091 goes cold.
The 81 rifles that were not sent to the destination states remained under guard at Military Camp Number One, in Lomas de Tecamachalco.
The investigation led to the authorities in Michoacan. According to the cables, "there is no evidence that state officials have strictly implemented the regulations and the chain of custody once they received the weapons from Sedena. Given the lack of reliability of the methods to safeguard custody once arms arrive at the state government level, our agents have good reasons to think that’s where many weapons simply disappear."
The cables failed to answer the ultimate question. Who was responsible for the R-15 falling into the hands of a gang of criminals in the Purépecha Plateau of Michoacan?