Obama to Combat Flow of U.S. Arms to Mexico

By Matthew Harwood

With the majority of weapons smuggled into Mexico coming from the United States, President-elect Barack Obama promised Mexican President Felipe Calderon at a summit yesterday that he would do everything in his power to stop the cross-border flow of guns from America, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Ninety percent of all guns come from the United States, Mexican officials estimate. Typically, middle men purchase the weapons in American cities, such as Houston, and transport the arms across the Mexican-U.S. border. A popular option for the smugglers and drug gangs are assault rifles that can be converted to fire fully automatically.

The unimpeded flow of such weaponry has contributed to a drug-fueled bloodbath between rival narco-gangs and law enforcement. In 2008 alone, 5,400 people were murdered in the escalating drug war—twice as many as in 2007. Hundreds of the deceased are Mexican security officers.

Increased intelligence sharing between Mexico and the United States also looks probable, according to the Chronicle.

Obama told Calderon that he would ask his designated Homeland Security secretary, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, to lead an effort to increase information sharing between law officers on both sides of the border. Calderon launched the war on Mexico’s multibillion-dollar drug syndicates after taking office in December 2006, sending about 30,000 soldiers and federal police into lawless areas. Mexican forces have arrested top drug operatives and seized more than 60 tons of South American cocaine and tons of other narcotics.

Containing the violence isn't just in the interest of Mexico but the United States as well. Last week, The New York Times reported a plan drawn up by the Department of Homeland Security to "surge" federal, state, and local law enforcement, possibly even the military, to border crossings where the violence could spread into the United States. For instance, a third of last year's deaths were located in Ciudad Juarez, an industrial city of 1.3 million that borders El Paso, Texas.

In a recent report written by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar under President Bill Clinton concluded that Mexico “is on the edge of the abyss — it could become a narco state in the coming decade.’’

UPDATE: Senators Kay Hutchison (R-TX) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) have reintroduced last year's Southwest Border Violence Reduction Act, which seeks to identify and eliminate illicit sources of firearms smuggled into Mexico for use by violent drug trafficking organizations." (You can read last year's version, here.)



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