Seizures of munitions trafficked through Mexico City airport grew nearly 600 percent in two years, according to new data that highlights the airport’s role in a crime more commonly associated with land border crossings.
A freedom of information request submitted by El Universal to the Mexican Attorney General’s Office revealed that authorities in the Mexico City International Airport seized over 2,000 cartridges in 2014 — compared to just 318 seized in 2012.
This isn’t the only dramatic increase in munition seizures when looking at the numbers from the past eight years. Between 2008 and 2009, the amount of seized cartridges went up by over 4,000 percent — from 59 in 2008 to 2,674 in 2009.
The figures obtained by El Universal also show that over the past eight years, 2009 saw the highest number of weapons seized at the airport: 30. The highest number of arrests, 17, were registered in 2014, surpassing the previous high of 16 in 2009 and a low of zero in 2010.
The president of Mexican arms watchdog Mexico Desarme, Miriam Morales, told El Universal that the figure represents a small fraction of what actually passes through the airport.
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It is difficult to say whether the fluctuations in seizures reflect patterns in Mexico’s international arms trafficking trade, improved airport security, or merely the luck of airport authorities in any given year.
The head of Mexico Desarme suggested several theories to El Universal as to why the airport sees more seizures some years than others — more weapons could have entered the country the years when violence due to organized crime was the highest, like 2009, she said. Meanwhile, a year like 2012 saw few seizures as that was an election year, she told the newspaper.
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The statistics also shine a light on a lesser known route for arms trafficking into the Mexico, as the crime is more commonly associated with weapons flooding across the country’s northern border with the US. Studies looking at this trade estimate that anywhere from 580 to 2,000 weapons cross the US-Mexico border every day, and the quantity crossing by land undoubtedly dwarfs the number of weapons passing through airports. However, El Universal’s report shows that air trafficking is also a significant source of the illegal weapons and munitions that fuel the violence plaguing much of Mexico.