Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

New Routes for Mexico's Black Market Arms

Monday, November 21, 2011 |

Posted in the BB forum by Chivis

Contralinea magazine details the routes by which guns are trafficked into Mexico, including the flow of arms from the U.S. directly to Guatemala, and then over Mexico's southern border.

Because the recent spike in drug-related violence in Mexico has coincided with the 2004 expiration of the U.S. assault weapons ban, and because a significant portion of the weapons used in Mexican crimes have been traced to U.S. vendors, Mexican officials often accuse liberal U.S. gun laws of being a major obstacle to a safer Mexico. Indeed, President Felipe Calderon made precisely this point during a speech to U.S. Congress in 2010.

U.S. officials have not denied that the problem exists. As InSight Crime noted, President Obama lamented his government’s inability to make headway against the flow of arms traffic, calling the task “impossible” earlier this month. One Los Angeles official recently termed the southward arms flow between his city and Tijuana an “ammo pipeline.”

The anger over the “Fast and Furious” scandal, in which U.S. federal agents allowed weapons to cross the Mexican border in order to track their flow towards criminal groups, has furthered the image of a U.S. government careless about the impact the country's arms may have on Mexico. Several of the guns purchased under Fast and Furious were later used in crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol official last December.

However, the legacy of the Central American civil wars between the 1960s and 1980s, which flooded the region with small arms, has also contributed to the availability of lethal weapons in Mexico. There are·several recent examples of soldiers looting official arms caches and reselling them on the black market in nations like El Salvador.

The following is a partial translation by InSight Crime of a recent report from Contralinea on the challenges of the illegal arms trade:

With just one click on an Internet search engine, Francisco Sanchez has multiple options for the object of his interest: a Pietro Beretta 9 millimeter piece, offered at 10,500 pesos [roughly $775]. Sanchez wants to buy a semi-automatic weapon, which are only for use by the army, without requesting permission from the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), the only agency in Mexico that hands out licenses to carry arms.

In short, he will acquire an illegal weapon. To buy it he doesn’t need to go to a rough neighborhood, to a market like El Salado in Iztapalapa, or to a neighborhood like San Felipe de Jesus, in the Gustavo A. Madero·barrio (the largest in Latin America), two important areas for the black market for weapons. Nor does he have a contact with a friend of a friend of a police officer or soldier.

To acquire a gun it’s enough to sit down in front of a computer and, from the intimacy of your home, office, or any location, do a quick search to complete the transaction. Small arms are sold on hundreds of internet pages, with the deal agreed upon in chats, prices haggled over in computer messages or over cell phones.

Since 2005, the Attorney General’s office (PGR, for its initials in Spanish) recognized that·organized crime groups could acquire weaponry over the Internet. But today it’s not just the criminals, but also civilians like Sanchez, who, overwhelmed by the growing insecurity and criminality gripping the country, see owning guns as a way to defend their life, their property, and their family.

Even if citizens are purchase weapons for self-defense, the problem is that by buying them on the black market they feed the cycle of illegality, and increase the profits of the industry of death, says Edgardo Buscaglia, a UN adviser on issues of security and organized crime.

International organizations estimate that some 20 million illegal weapons circulate in Mexican territory, in addition to the 5.5 million authorized by Sedena; that is, for every legal gun there are at least four illegal ones. The black market for guns in the country is increasingly open, "almost unchecked," in the words of the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza. It has penetrated an ever-growing number of structures in society, not only in the criminal realm.


For two decades, [Mexico's] southern border has been a port of entry for the weapons that feed the country's black market. There are 956 miles of border between Mexico and Guatemala, where it is enough to arrive to cities like Ciudad Hidalgo, Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, or in border towns like Corozal, Talisman or Carmen Xhan, cross the checkpoints and walk around Tecun Uman, La Mesilla, Peten, El Carmen and Gracias a Dios to be offered weapons. Salesmen in shacks, adobe huts, or in the middle of the street offer the old M-16s and Galils that the Central American civil wars left behind; or more modern weapons, like the M72 and AT4 (anti-tank rockets), RPG-7 rocket-launchers, or 37-millimeter MGL grenade-launchers, with tracers and armor-piercing capacity, sold by catalogue, and a one-week wait before delivery.

The weapons arrive mostly from the United States, through air or maritime routes to Guatemala for distribution in Mexico, Central America, or South America. The advantage that this market offers is that purchases can be made without any middlemen, and that crossing is much easier than on the northern border.

Weapons acquired in Guatemala to supply the black market in Mexico are transported using the “hormiga” method, among the belongings of those who cross the border between the two countries -- identified as one of the most porous in the world. Or, if they are large shipments, they are transported along the Suchiate River, or in secret compartments in vehicles that cross the border, or in collusion with immigration and customs officials.

The Mexican government identifies four principal routes through which U.S. arms enter. The Pacific route, whose entry point is Tijuana, and passes though Mexicali, San Luis Rio Colorado, Nogales, Hermosillo, Culiacan, Tepic, Guadalajara, Lazaro Cardenas, Morelia, Chilpancingo y Oaxaca.

The central route, which passes through Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Durango, Guadalajara, and Morelia. Through the Gulf route, they come via Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, Miguel Aleman, Reynosa, Matamoros, before moving on to Ciudad Victoria, Veracruz, and Tabasco or Oaxaca. And the southern route, in the border towns of Balancan, Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Tapachula and Ciudad Hidalgo, and moving on to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and from there to Veracruz and Oaxaca.

Magda Coss explains how the legal weapons that the government acquires become part of this market: “Many of the weapons that comprise this black market are transfers from the government to supply their armed forces. The problem is that, owing to the corruption and the weakness of the institutions, much of the weaponry is diverted illegally and with premeditation, or through theft, to supply the black market. This is facilitated by the hidden identity of the ultimate user, and by the corruption of the officials and agents of the armed forces and national security.”

The origin of the problem, Coss says, is that there is not “adequate and transparent” monitoring of legal transfers. In her book, "Trafico de armas en Mexico," she reports that from 2000 to 2008, Sedena was notified of the robbery of 6,932 weapons from 40 state public security agencies and local prosecutors' offices, in addition to the Federal Police and the PGR. This figure represented 60 percent of the guns confiscated over the same period.

Source:
Contralinea Magazine
Insight

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13 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

I highly doubt that anyone inside Mexico would sell a beretta 92 for roughly $775. They go for much more than that inside Mexico. And no one would be dumb enough to send funds to an other country only to get ripped off and never have a package show up. Black market arms deals are made in person and often in bulk, not over the Internet. Don't believe me ? Go ask the guys over at mexicoarmado . com if this is possible.

Anonymous said...

Alfonso Pena aka El Poton Pena a well known Zeta boss in Nuevo Laredo was kidnapped by a commando of sicarios when he was on his way to his ranch. His business associate Don Felipe Garcia a former Sinaloa Cartel operator took the first plane out of Nuevo Laredo, his destination is unknown. Tony Pena younger brother of El Poton Pena with pending charges in federal court in Texas recently had agree to cooperate with law enforcment agencies.

Anonymous said...

Obama is a Liberal Democrat his black federal govt is committed to disarming the US citizen it is already illegal in the US for felons to have guns or ammunition. This liberal Obcession with disarming the law abiding responsible citizen is beyond my comprehension. Mexico itself is a great example of what happens when you attempt to disarm the public, Can't you people see that? Calderon is Flat wrong and is ignorant to boot,If Mexicans were armed the crime rate in Mexico would be cut in half, Hello wake up ,People do for themselves 100% better than any Govt. that will EVER exist. Govt itself will weaken people,destroys ambition,rewards bad conduct, taxes performance,takes away personal choice, bribes the weake people for votes, DESTROYS PROSPERITY,serves the weak,penalizes the strong, Calderon is ripping his pants with the USA, How stupid is Calderon!

Anonymous said...

@ 8:13 enough with the political crap

Anonymous said...

Something isn't right with this.
Why would someone import AK type rifles to the U.S. and then export them to Guatemala when the rifles are available in Africa, Eastern Europe for much cheaper.
If Francisco can go on the 'net in Mexico so can law enforcement.
This is BS.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap man this article is complete bullshit. When will Mexico realize that the violence and crime are all of mexicans making. Take some god damned responsibility for the state your country is in , instead of pointing fingers and blaming others. Guns don't kill people in Mexico, it's your policemen and military. Open your eyes , you cannot fix your own problems by blaming other people. These problems were in Mexico long before the USA repealed it's automatic weapons ban. Get real before your beautiful country becomes a narco state , because it's coming and mexicans seem ok with that as long as they get paid, veery sick country indeed.

Anonymous said...

The Mexican government is more afraid of an armed civilian population than of the cartels. Only Mexicans can retakes their country back and it won't happen doing peregrinations to the virgin Mary. Mexican need to arm themselves and restore order.

Texcoco said...

Good article Buela.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, reporter Buggs

Everybody stay calm. Refer not to the beginning of our crude republic. There is plenty of weapons and little sense to go around.

Anonymous said...

If gun control works then why are ther 4 illegal guns to every legal gun in Mexico. Why is it a mystery how the cartels do what ever they want when none of the Mexican citizens can defend themselves. A free man with a rifle in his home keeps everyone honest.

Anonymous said...

still have a hard tim thinking the us is fucking with the one thing yhat was here before us all and the us population demands calm down and organize not terrorize boyh sides of the boarder

Anonymous said...

if the us had a quality product at a realistic price the problem would disapearand the issue that is more worthyof the wasted everything could be adressed every one on this planet wants to make money not to piss it away

Anonymous said...

vote ,all will never agree to make peace, this is freedom .freedom would be ,if you could apoint your taxes to pay only for the sevices you use or agree on /with

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