The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas
Lack of inter-agency cooperation is hindering efforts to stem arms trafficking at the U.S-Mexico border, says a 2009 draft report issued by the Justice Department.NBC sums up the report's findings regarding the effectiveness of Project Gunrunner, a U.S. task force formed in 2005 that tracks gun smuggling into Mexico. The task force just received $37 million from Congress, and the ATF announced Tuesday that seven new Project Gunrunner teams will be dispatched in key cities across the U.S., including Atlanta, Dallas and Sierra Vista, Arizona, reportedly an important hub for the Sinaloa Cartel. However, the Justice Department's draft report finds there are "significant weaknesses" in Project Gunrunner, notably, the "ATF does not systematically exchange intelligence with its Mexican and some U.S. partner agencies."
This is preoccupying: especially considering that the same groups involved in smuggling arms is probably also involved in drugs and human trafficking, more collaboration between agencies like the ATF, the DEA, Homeland Security, and Mexican offices could only be more helpful than harmful. It looks as though the task force has been relatively effective since its creation: since 2005 Project Gunrunner has seized 6,668 firearms and referred 497 cases to the Justice Department.
But there are other challenges besides the lack of shared intelligence. Not only are offices understaffed in the Southwest U.S. and in Mexico, NBC reports, but weak gun laws have made it difficult for courts to successfully prosecute some arms-trafficking cases. Currently there is no federal law that would notify authorities if large amounts of AK-47s and other semi-automatics are purchased in a short period of time. Existing laws also need to be better enforced, so that rogue gun stores can more easily lose their license. Other solutions appear more short-term. As NBC notes, the White House has not yet nominated a director at the ATF, for fear of riling up the U.S. gun lobby.
With occasional advice from a "witch," a group of police and military officials sold arms to the FARC's 48th Front, Colombian news media is reporting.
In a cable sent to the US Embassy in Asunción, released by WikiLeaks, US officials outline the "need" to obtain information about Islamic militant activity, its connections to organized crime and its penetration of the Paraguayan state, especially along the tri-border area.
In a move that many analysts see as potentially destabilizing for the region, Venezuela will begin to manufacture Kalashnikov rifles with the assistance of Russian arms company Rosoboronexport, beginning next May.
The mayors of Huehuetenango, a western department in Guatemala known for high levels of drug-related activity, have called on the federal government to increase security measures after a spike in violence this week .
On Saturday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos released a series of intercepted emails between leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in which they communicated plans to purchase black market weapons from other countries in the region.
During a press conference announcing the arrest and breakup of a United States-based arms smuggling ring, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis K. Burke said, “The massive size of this operation sadly exemplifies the magnitude of the problem – Mexican Drug Lords go shopping for war weapons in Arizona.”
In a study written by Colby Goodman and Michel Marizco in September 2010, for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Mexico Institute, at the University of San Diego, Goodman and Marizco examine the problem of U.S. arms trafficking to Mexico.
The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) arrested 20 suspects on Tuesday in an operation the bureau said disrupted a gun trafficking ring responsible for sending hundreds of weapons to Mexico, according to a U.S. Justice Department press release. Fourteen more suspects remain at large.