Obama could help stop bloodshed

September 10, 2010


— Here’s an interesting detail about the much-publicized recent arrest of Mexico’s top drug baron Edgar Valdez Villarreal, better known as “La Barbie” — he was caught with a U.S.-made M-16 semiautomatic rifle and other sophisticated arms that Mexican officials suspect were smuggled from the United States.

In Mexico, U.S. arms smuggling is a big issue. President Felipe Calderon said during a visit to Washington in May that of all the guns and assault rifles seized in Mexico over the last three years, “more than 80 percent of those we have been able to trace came from the United States.”

Mexico’s drug cartels have become increasingly well-equipped armies thanks to a flood of semi-automatic U.S. weapons, which have been easier to get since the U.S. government allowed a 10-year ban on sales of assault weapons to expire in 2004, Mexican officials say.

Renewed sales of U.S. semiautomatic weapons and Calderon’s military offensive against the drug cartels help explain an escalation of drug-related violence that has left more than 28,000 dead over the past four years, they say.

Does Mexico have a point in blaming Washington for part of its bloodshed?

Or is it conveniently passing on the blame to the United States for its own drug violence?

According to a recently released U.N. report titled “The Globalization of Crime,” most of the firearms used by Mexico’s drug cartels are purchased in the estimated 6,700 gun shops along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Smugglers use “straw purchasers” to buy the weapons, and then take them across the border concealed in some of the 88 million private cars that make border crossings each year. An estimated 20,000 mostly sophisticated weapons are trafficked annually south of the U.S. border, it said.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report last year concluded that “available evidence indicates that a large proportion of firearms fueling Mexican drug violence originated in the United States, including a growing number of increasingly lethal weapons.”

Mexican officials say the problem has worsened since former President George W. Bush allowed the 10-year ban on sales of assault weapons to expire. Mexican drug cartels have found it much easier to buy semi-automatic rifles in U.S. gun shops because these weapons can be easily resold without leaving any traces, they say.

The National Rifle Association, the biggest U.S. gun lobby, is skeptical about Mexico’s claims that most of the drug cartels’ weapons are smuggled from the United States.

Many of the tens of thousands of Mexican army troops who have defected to the drug cartels in recent years have taken their heavy weapons with them, NRA officials say.

So who is to blame, I asked University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley, who has written several books on Mexico’s law enforcement problems.

“The U.S. has a responsibility, and we had not fulfilled it until (Homeland Security Secretary) Janet Napolitano began to tighten up the U.S. side of the border,” Bagley said. “But the Mexicans have to assume responsibility for the security of their own borders, and they have not done so.”

Mexico’s customs and border patrol units are corrupt, and most of the purges designed to modernize them have been only cosmetic, Bagley said. Mexico should invest more money into improving its law enforcement agencies, he added.

My opinion: I agree. Mexico has the primary responsibility for ending its drug violence. Unless it becomes serious about reforming its 2,200 — yes, you read right — corruption-ridden police forces to prevent them from protecting drug traffickers, Mexico’s drug cartels will always be ahead of the game.

But President Barack Obama could help reduce Mexico’s bloodshed if he restored the expired U.S. ban on sales of assault weapons, as he promised to do during the campaign, or if he signed an existing inter-American drug convention known as CIFTA, which requires signatory countries to better track the end users of firearms sales.

The Obama administration has not done either. Meanwhile, as the recent capture of “La Barbie” shows, Mexico’s drug barons continue to get increasingly more — and more lethal — U.S.-made weapons.


Richard Heckler 7 years, 7 months ago

Bush did not crack down on this matter even though the smuggling concern was making news. Back then the news was talking truck loads of military assault weapons. Obviously the major gun running was no longer a secret.

Bush did not do it. Instead he was busy spending money on a bogus billion dollar fence plan. Just think what could have been done spending those bucks beefing up the border patrol and stopping these trucks loaded with weapons. The news article assumed these guns were supporting the intense violence in the streets of Mexico.

Bush refused to do it!

Damn right Obama should do it!

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

Many arms that wind up with the cartels come from the Mexican army and police. They need to clean up their own house. BTW, regarding "U.S.-made M-16 semiautomatic rifle" An M-16 is not a semiautomatic rifle. A semiautomatic rifle is not an M-16. Which way is it, Andres?

TopJayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

If they did not get them here, they would just get them elsewhere. With the kind of money involved, I'm surprised they would even want semiauto's.
This is just more sillyness by the media. So now we have another excuse to try and ban guns. Here's an idea. Enforce the border like you are supposed to do, and they will not be able to buy them.....Jeez.
Really this is more of an indictment against the no border enforcement crowd. And remember. Mexico is really good about blaming all of their issues on others. That way they do not have to answer questions about their own criminality, and culpability in this problem.

TopJayhawk 7 years, 7 months ago

Do what merrill?
Enforce the border, or try to ban guns? I agree with the border enforcement part.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

"In 2007-2008, according to ATF Special Agent William Newell, Mexico submitted 11,000 guns to the ATF for tracing. Close to 6,000 were successfully traced -- and of those, 90 percent -- 5,114 to be exact, according to testimony in Congress by William Hoover -- were found to have come from the U.S.

But in those same two years, according to the Mexican government, 29,000 guns were recovered at crime scenes.

In other words, 68 percent of the guns that were recovered were never submitted for tracing. And when you weed out the roughly 6,000 guns that could not be traced from the remaining 32 percent, it means 83 percent of the guns found at crime scenes in Mexico could not be traced to the U.S.

So, if not from the U.S., where do they come from? There are a variety of sources:

-- The Black Market. Mexico is a virtual arms bazaar, with fragmentation grenades from South Korea, AK-47s from China, and shoulder-fired rocket launchers from Spain, Israel and former Soviet bloc manufacturers.

-- Russian crime organizations. Interpol says Russian Mafia groups such as Poldolskaya and Moscow-based Solntsevskaya are actively trafficking drugs and arms in Mexico.

  • South America. During the late 1990s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) established a clandestine arms smuggling and drug trafficking partnership with the Tijuana cartel, according to the Federal Research Division report from the Library of Congress.

-- Asia. According to a 2006 Amnesty International Report, China has provided arms to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Chinese assault weapons and Korean explosives have been recovered in Mexico.

-- The Mexican Army. More than 150,000 soldiers deserted in the last six years, according to Mexican Congressman Robert Badillo. Many took their weapons with them, including the standard issue M-16 assault rifle made in Belgium.

-- Guatemala. U.S. intelligence agencies say traffickers move immigrants, stolen cars, guns and drugs, including most of America's cocaine, along the porous Mexican-Guatemalan border. On March 27, La Hora, a Guatemalan newspaper, reported that police seized 500 grenades and a load of AK-47s on the border. Police say the cache was transported by a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Ixcan, a border town..."


BrianR 7 years, 7 months ago

It's just like the the unhinged corrupt right-wing media to omit gun runnin' hillbillies.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 7 months ago

So? Re-instate the ban on sales of assault weapons. Seems pretty simple to me.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

Look at all the drive-by bayonettings that were prevented by the "scary-weapons" ban...

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

Well, there you go. I'm glad that worked out well for yo.

windjammer 7 years, 7 months ago

Shewmon is there anything you are not a expert on?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

Obama could resign and go back to his mob-financed Chicago mansion

seriouscat 7 years, 7 months ago

Great idea! If you want to put to the final nail in the coffin of the democratic party's near future election prospects and accomplish nothing in the process. Love him or hate him, Obama is smarter than that.

CA is set to legalize maryjane in November and begin a nationwide cascade of long, loooong overdue reforms. These changes will do more to quelle drug violence than more guns laws could ever accomplish.


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