Retailers in the U.S. are a major source of weapons for Mexican drug trafficking organizations, but many of their armaments are from military sources.
A U.S. State Department cable released Monday February 25 by WikiLeaks reveals that Mexican law enforcement recovered grenades, which the U.S government sold to the El Salvadoran military in the early 1990s. One of these grenades, a U.S. military M67 fragmentation grenade, was used in an attack on Televisa, a Monterrey TV station, during their evening news broadcast. Law enforcement officials identified that grenade from the fuse spoon and pull ring left behind at the scene.
Three South Korean K400 grenades were recovered in an abandoned armored car believed to have been used by traffickers as a getaway vehicle. The cable requests that U.S. Embassy officials in Seoul, “discreetly query the Korean government regarding the whereabouts, disposition, and the possibility of any missing stocks,” of South Korean-made grenades. Another Korean-made K75 grenade was thrown into a nightclub in Pharr, Texas on the U.S. side of the border, where the targets were three off-duty police officers. The grenade did not detonate.
Other recovered military hardware described in the cable includes 14 more U.S.-made M67 grenades, an unexploded U.S. M26A2 fragmentation grenade hurled at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey on Oct. 21, 2008, 21 unidentified grenades from a narco warehouse, 25 40mm projectiles, and a U.S. M203 40mm grenade launcher,
Another cable provides detail of the case against Mexican Army Major Arturo Gonzalez, who was arrested on Dec. 21, 2008 for assisting drug trafficking organizations (DTO). The Jan. 20, 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City says Gonzalez, “stands accused of leaking military intelligence, training [Arturo Beltran Leyva Organization] hit men through a private security company and supplying military weapons to various DTOs, including los Zetas.” Gonzalez was paid $100,000 a month for his services, beginning in 2005, according to the cable.
At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez was a part of President Felipe Calderon’s security team. He is accused of passing information about Calderon’s travel schedule and Calderon’s medical records to the cartels.
“The arrest represents the most serious security breach to date but is not surprising given high-level civilian Government of Mexico (GOM) corruption charges over the past six months,” the cable says.
William W. Cummings is a freelance reporter working on American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop’s “Gunrunners” project in partnership with InSight, PBS Frontline, and the Center for Public Integrity. He recently completed the master’s program in journalism at American University’s School of Communication. InSight reprints this blog, with permission, from his personal blog.