U.S. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks confirm that Mexican drug cartel weaponry is coming from an elaborate international operation whereby the cartels are acquiring military-grade arms through various government channels. This release comes on the heels of a report issued last week, and discussed on the NSSF Blog yesterday, from the STRATFOR research group challenging the myth that 90 percent of recovered firearms in Mexico come from the United States. The STRATFOR report concludes that in 2008 the number was less than 12 percent.
The WikiLeaks release raises an interesting new question: What portion of the 12 percent of guns recovered in Mexico and traced back to the United States were originally sold at retail versus being sold by the U.S. government or lawfully exported under a license issued by the U.S. State Department?
According to the cables, large quantities of U.S. government-sold or lawfully exported rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and explosives, as well as ammunition, have been seized by Mexico’s military and law enforcement during cartel-related raids over the last several years. Though some of the weapons were sold or exported to other countries, many were sold directly to the Mexican government. In 2008 alone Mexico received some $204 million in U.S. military arms shipments approved for export. So just how are these weapons finding their way into the hands of the drug cartels?
The State Department cables follow earlier reports that as many as 150,000 Mexican soldiers have recently defected to work for the drug cartels — bringing their American-made service-issued firearms with them. It has also been well documented that the drug cartels are illegally smuggling fully automatic firearms, grenades and other weapons into Mexico from South and Central America (Washington Post).
In summarizing the leaked cables, the Narcosphere News Report concluded, “It is clear that there is a grand river of military-grade munitions flowing out of major gun factories in the U.S. and being exported globally — completely bypassing the mom-and-pop gun store.”