Mexico Army Moves to Update Arsenal

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Mexico’s Defense Ministry has requested $40 million over the next five years to buy more modern weaponry, as its aging armaments struggle to compete with the high-tech guns that criminal groups buy on the black market.

The Defense Ministry (SEDENA) said it wanted to replace its old G3 battle rifles and FX-05 assault rifles and acquire high-caliber arms to allow for precision operations, particularly in urban areas. The budget request sent to the Finance Ministry asked that about $8 million (100 million pesos) of the defense budget be dedicated to a gradual phasing out of the current weapons each year for the next five years, representing under two percent of the annual defense budget, reported Milenio.

According to SEDENA, the weapons in the military’s arsenal are on average 10 years old and have been subjected to adverse climatic conditions, meaning that in confrontations with criminal groups the army is sometimes faced with weapons better than its own.

SEDENA noted that new weapons were particularly necessary as the army continued to serve public security functions in various parts of the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

The fact that Mexico’s own Defense Ministry admits that the military is outgunned by criminal groups highlights how easy it is for gangs to obtain high-caliber firearms on the black market. Mexico has strict gun laws and there is only one gun store in the country, which is operated by the military. One 2011 estimate holds that there are as many as 20 million illegal weapons circulating in Mexico, in contrast to around 5.5 million legal ones.

A portion of these weapons are legally purchased in the US. According to a study released earlier this year by the University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute, each year an average of 250,000 weapons are bought in the US and then moved south of the border. The study also found that 50 percent of US arms dealers are financially dependent on Mexican demand, one indication of the importance of US outlets as a source of weapons for Mexico’s criminal groups.

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