Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The Economics Behind the Weapons

Friday, October 7, 2011 |

By Samuel Logan -- Southern Pulse

We’ve recently spent some time reviewing the transcripts and fallout from the recent ATF testimony over the blowback from the Fast and Furious program. Latin America’s Moment has a thorough review of the policy side of the story, while La Plaza, a LA Times blog, digs a little deeper into the revelations that while the ATF knew about the guns leaking into Mexico, the FBI and DEA are also at fault for running separate operations that “could have a material impact on Fast and Furious.”

By now, the whole throbbing mess has devolved into a political sword fight. Heads will roll; the “iron river” will still flow into to Mexico, and Central America, another important source of weapons, continues to fly below radars in Washington and Mexico City.

Like drugs, the weapons market is all about supply and demand. The economics favor anyone selling high-powered rifles in Mexico. If we shut down the United States, weapons will flow from Central America. If both are shut, weapons will flow in from the Caribbean, from Europe, China, Israel, etc.

Meanwhile, this media splash reminds us that criminals continue to benefit from the paradoxical need for effectiveness and multilateral cooperation. In 2006, I wrote on how guns and cocaine are one market out of control. What I said then is just as true today, despite any progress President Calderon or the Merida Initiative has made since December of that year:

Tens of thousands of illicit actors propagate a market that proves to be highly lucrative, flexible, and networked. There is no center, no head, no leader to kill.

Latin America’s Moment asks in the 18 July 2011 post, “what else can and should be done?”

I immediately thought of Central America, especially Guatemala and El Salvador. Here is a sub-region that plays a significant role in regional weapons trafficking, but it has managed to avoid detection at the international level - despite the strong links (we're told) between stolen grenades in El Salvador and the grenades that exploded 100 meters from the US Consulate in Monterrey.

Central America’s low-level of attention, and the ongoing Fast and Furious scandal in Washington, support a strong argument: the issue of weapons trafficking is little more than a political pawn surrounded by much more important issues - namely immigration, energy supply, and macro economics - in an ongoing geopolitical chess match between the United States and Mexico.

The criminal system is larger than any one government, and politics always trumps security.

Any efforts to stymie gun trafficking from the United States to Mexico, and from Central America to Mexico, require a matched effort from at least three nations – the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala. All three are currently in one stage or another of a presidential election cycle. The United State is the furthest away (November 2012), with Mexico not far behind (July 2012), though unofficial campaigning started earlier this month after the 4 July 2011 Mexico state gubernatorial elections. Official campaigning in Guatemala began in May, ahead of September 2011 first round elections.

Any tri-lateral discussions held today would not begin to track until after the January 2013 inauguration of the next president of the United States, when the new presidents of each country (whether Obama wins or not) would have to re-seat the issue amid a new political environment, despite what the latest security statistics look like.

…Which brings us back to Fast and Furious. Everyone knows that the ATF is the red-headed step child of the Justice Department, and it’s punching above its weight class by taking on the FBI and DEA. But none of that matters; it's just another squabble between brothers, like the House of Ghosts incident. The deeper the US wades into the muck that is organized crime in Mexico, the more likely we're to be entertained by political blowback.

In a recent event in Mexico City, I learned that Los Zetas – a criminal organization with a strong presence in the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala – spends as much as US$4 million a month on its war with the Gulf Cartel. How much of that cash purchases weapons and ammunition? Once everyone is over the politics, maybe we can get down to business. Rather than remove the weapons used to kill, kill the economics behind the weapons.

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14 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

If not from the U.S., the guns will flow from elswhere. This does not take away the fact that Mexico is our next door nieghbor and the U.S. has easy access to guns. They can be hand carried or driven by private vehicle across the border by the lowest level criminal. Try that from israel!be realistic when assessing the problem. BTW easy access to gums for legal U.S. residents is not any part of the problem in Mexico or anywhere else.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Lift the Ban on assault weapons! Only a phsycopath would want to own or carry one. If you like them that much join the military fat chicken shit rednecks.

Anonymous said...

I was watching a rerun of Gangland about how the atf infiltrated the hells angels by acting as gunn runners to mexico. It seems the atf has had a history of this or is it just coincidence they used the gun running ploy?

Anonymous said...

Nothing will change. The U.S. bankers and politicians need the money. Bankers,HSecurity, ATF,DEA, FBI and politicians know they will not be prosecuted for laundering and profiting from the money.

Anonymous said...

And obama and holder are not helping the situation by LYING to us about all the guns that were sent to Mexico under their approval.


Anonymous said...

"Only a psychopath would want to own or carry one (assault weapons)" Stupid comment. If the bad guys own them, are you supposed to defend yourself with a BB gun? Plus, there are a lot of us who enjoy guns as a hobby, and take it serious. They are to be respected, and the laws are to be followed. And the Second Amendment assures us the right to own firearms. And the only difference between an "assault weapon" and a regular one is basically NOTHING. They all do the same thing, which is send a led plug at high speed. Guns are just efficient sling shots. And the AR-15 is a great gun for hunting and sport shooting. And that's why they like them, too. But these assholes would use anything (including a chainsaw) they could find to achieve their goals. You can't blame guns for the problems that people cause. In the 13th Century, they used to blame violence on blades (knives and swords). If you take away the bad guys, then guns will do about as much harm as a sharp pair of scissors in a class full of third graders.

Anonymous said...

"Lift the Ban on assault weapons! Only a phsycopath would want to own or carry one. If you like them that much join the military fat chicken shit rednecks."

Fumate otro cigaro de mota aversi mejora to intelligencia. En Mexico tambien disfruta el deporte LEGAL de tiro y caza. No creo que hay "rednecks" en mexico.

"Lift the ban"
Do you even have a remote idea what that those words mean?


Anonymous said...

How is it that our neighbor to the south has abundant natural resources in gas & oil, near perfect climate and great expanses of arable land for agriculture. Thousands of miles of pristine Coastland on the Gulf and Pacific oceans. Yet the government in Mexico just can't seem to get it's act together. The level of corruption, lawlessness and abject poverty in Mexico is as big a threat to that nations stability as there has ever been. The Mexican political elite can point the finger at the US, Guatemala, Europe or wherever. But until the mexican people do something for themselves the situation is never going to change.

Anonymous said...

There is no "iron river".

Anonymous said...

Any criminal in any country in the world,will can and do get GUNS its only JOE PUBLIC in these countries that is prohibited ,takes tests,joins clubs,locks guns up,has registered ammunition and guns,permits,licenses,IDs, on and on, meanwhile the criminals go on with their business while all the political activist dream up new ways to legislate the brave peaceful socialist new world, IS IT NEWS THAT YOU CAN GET AN AK-47 anywhere anytime just takes Money. If the do gooders would quit smoking so much dope and think they would be very grateful for the RED NECKS who support,protect and defend them.

eternalcode said...

anon @12:06 : thanks for posting those URLs.

Anonymous said...

im anti government and anti law enforcement

Layla said...

Thanks for posting links from Stratfor. I realize this article is only one editor's take on the sale and distribution of arms to Mexico. And yes, the US is always blamed for a problem that has many heads...especially since we all know that the cartels have enough money to buy weapons wherever in the world they can get their hands on them. And they will as long as their is a battle over drugs and trafficking routes.

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