On November 4th, gunmen attacked a Mormon family of women and children in Mexico. This attack got me to wonder: why these drug cartels in Mexico are so dangerous and powerful.
The attack killed nine people in total. Most were not yet teenagers. Devin, a 14-year old, in a heroic act, tried to carry two injured toddlers to safety. After the weight overburdened him, he hid the toddlers in the bushes while he walked 14 miles seeking help, all the time fearing for his life.
The chances of solving this crime are slim. Records show, Mexican authorities solve five percent of murders. The cartels will prevent finding the cause of the shooting.
I thought Mexico was a relatively safe country to travel in. I have friends who vacation there every winter and consider their location as safe. But apparently, large parts of the country are unsafe, controlled by drug cartels with powerful weapons.
Mexico’s can’t overcome cartels
Drug cartels defend themselves with the power of their own armies. Cartels outman police forces. Consequently, homicides are trending upward in Mexico to a rate of 90 murders a day. .
This October, the Sinaloa Cartel beat the police. Mexican police arrested Ovidio “The Mouse” Guzman in Culiacan, the capital of the state of Sinaloa. Ovidio, the son of “El Chapo” Guzman (the famous drug lord), is the new Sinaloa Cartel leader. He took this role after the imprisonment of his father in the U.S.
The day Ovidio was arrested, the drug cartel exploded with a show of violence. Throughout the day, violence erupted in the capital, closing the airport and causing the death of eight people. Cartel henchman surrounded the house holding Ovidio. A mass insurrection with marauding gun trucks forced authorities to release Ovidio. The Sinaloa Cartel won. Ovidio was released. This set a precedent for the future.
Current Mexican administration approach of non-violence
Past Mexican administrations tried to enforce the rule of law on the drug cartels. It didn’t work. Their firepower outmatches the police when they come to arrest cartel leaders. When arrests were successful, the large cartels splintered into smaller warring factions harder to deal with. These factions compete for territory with violence, intimidation and bribery.
The current administration, led by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, pledged a peaceful approach of negotiating with the cartels. Elected in January 2019, Obrador’s campaign said, “Hugs, not guns.” Some success occurred with this cooperative approach. Yet many others feel this non-violent approach is naïve. Many in small villages subjected to cartel threats feel this way.
Gun flow across U.S. border to Mexico
Security at the U.S. boarder ignores the gun flow into Mexico. This is because, it is not a U.S. crime to bring guns into Mexico. Mexican laws don’t allow firearms to cross the border into Mexico, but the enormous flow of commercial traffic prohibits careful inspection of all the cargo.
Some evidence exists of where guns in Mexico come from. Mexican authorities keep records of guns used in crimes. 2013 to 2019 records came to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Seventy percent originated in the U.S.
In 2004, the U.S. assault weapons ban expired. Then, these weapons started to flow into Mexico and into the hands of the drug cartels. The killings in Mexico accelerated. Straw purchasers can sell assault weapons in Mexico for triple the purchase cost in Texas.
U.S. straw purchasers enjoy the freedom of unlimited access to the purchase of guns. Limited background checks and no quantity purchase restrictions make guns easy to purchase for gun runners. Cartels depend on the guns from U.S. straw purchases made possible by drug money. Gun stores offer enough firearms to outfit an army if the gun runner desires.
Drug flow in reverse
For decades, pot, cocaine, heroin and meth flowed north and firearms flowed south. The drug flow will continue until guns stop flowing south. Until the purchase restrictions of U.S. weapons start, expect the flow to increase and violence build. Money from illegal drug sales support weapons purchase and the available weapons protect the drug cartels.
President Trump trumpets the need to block immigration at the boarder by building a huge wall. Where is his concern for the cause of the migration? Trump concern is with pleasing his pro-gun base, which fights restrictions hampering the purchase of guns.
Here is an example. Earlier this year, the Trump administration moved responsibility for overseas gun sales from the State Department to the Commerce Department. The edict eased the sale of guns to foreign countries.
Much of the accelerated gun sales will be to Mexican and Central American violent gangs, creating violence in these countries. The New York Times reported on 05/23/18, “The shooting sports foundation predicts that revising the process would increase firearms exports by as much as 20 percent.”
Trump’s purpose is to prove his loyalty to gun manufacturers and gun dealers. No one else benefits. Gun sales, particularly semi-automatic assault weapons, sold to Central America, are a big money maker for gun companies. From the New Republic, 07/20/14, “The surge of migrants coming to the U.S. from Central America is being fueled in part by the movement of guns heading in the other direction, from U.S. dealerships doing brisk business with the help of porous guns laws and a powerful gun lobby.”
After the attack on the Mormon family, Trump tweeted towards the drug cartels: “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!”
At this point, Mexican President Obrador ignores Trumps offer. As with any country, Mexicans protects their sovereignty. But since drug cartels and smaller gangs don’t survive on peace, each cartel and drug gang will struggle to maintain their territory. Violence will expand as the flow of weapons from the U.S. continues.
Mexico police are unable to deal with the overwhelming fire power of the drug cartels. Mexico in general, can’t deal with the problem. The U.S. must resolve to stem the flow of guns to begin to reduce the cartel firepower. Trafficking of guns into Mexico is not a crime. Discussions to make it a crime must begin.
Why don’t government officials understand? Stopping the flow of guns into Mexico stops the flow of drugs to the U.S. Several simple legal changes can do the job. A good start is to require universal background checks. Also, limiting the purchase of guns to one a month. This makes straw purchasing of guns much less profitable. Simple steps to take that continued to allow Americans to buy a gun.