Firearms confiscated in Mexico

Mexico’s arms imports grew by 331 percent over the last five years, compared to 2006-2010, raising more concerns over the government’s reluctance to scale back the militarization of the drug war.

The report (pdf), compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), notes that arms imports to the Americas decreased by 6 percent from 2011-2015 versus 2006-2010. Despite this, Mexico, Venezuela, and Brazil all saw a rise in imports.

According to SIPRI, weapons imports to Mexico included “a variety of transport aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, basic ground-attack aircraft, armed helicopters, patrol boats and light armoured vehicles.”

The US comprises the largest percentage of exports to Mexico, “account[ing] for 52 percent of deliveries to Mexico during 2011–15 (in many cases as military aid), followed by Spain with 19 percent and France with 10 percent."

As another point of comparison, weapon important to Iraq grew 86 percent between the same time period. 

Overall, international weapons transfers increased by 14 percent between 2011-2015 compared to 2006-2010, the report stated. 

InSight Crime Analysis

This tremendous 331 percent increase in weapons imports since 2011 doesn’t reflect President Enrique Peña Nieto’s original campaign vows to assume a different approach to Mexico's conflict. In fact, it is questionable how necessary the increase was, given that violence began to stabilize in 2012 near the end of Felipe Calderón presidential term. US officials have acknowledged that in 2014, Mexico spent over $1 billion in military equipment via the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, a 100-fold increase from previous years. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Mexico

The concern behind militarization is that Mexico's security forces have a mixed record when it comes to battling organized crime, with widespread reports of abuse and torture. Critics say that continuing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in arming these security agencies is not the best use of resources, and does nothing to address the social problems that help cause crime

Asides from being Mexico's bigger trade partner for military equipment, the US is also a primary source for illegally trafficked small arms. According to a report last year by Mexico's Attorney General's Office, more than 70 percent of weapons that were seized and successfully traced between September 2014 and July 2015 originated in the US.