Senators Back Mexican Argument On US Role in Drug Cartels

Three Democratic Senators have upheld Mexico's argument that US weapons fuel the deadly cartel wars in Mexico.

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Amiel Ungar, | updated: 00:37

Diane Feinstein
Diane Feinstein

The horrific and sadistic crimes perpetrated by the Mexican drug cartels have shocked public opinion.  Mexico and the United States, presumed allies in the war on drugs, have sparred since the 1990's over who is responsible. Mexico has blamed the insatiable American craving for drugs as well as the supply of lethal American-sourced weaponry to the cartels; the US has muttered about corruption in the Mexican security forces.

Now a report by three Democratic Senators upholds the Mexican complaint about the availability of firearms. About 70 percent (20,504) of the 29,284 guns seized in Mexico and submitted to a U.S. gun-tracing program came from the United States. The figures were supplied by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

35,000 have perished in Mexico's drug war since late 2006 and Mexicans blame the US. In a May, 2010 address to a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress, Mexican President Felipe Calderón called on the United States to “stop the flow of high powered weapons and other lethal weapons across the border.” Calderon repeated the charges to Mexican-Americans last Saturday.

"I accuse the U.S. weapons industry of (responsibility for) the deaths of thousands of people that are occurring in Mexico," Calderon said. "It is for profit, for the profits that it makes for the weapons industry."

Calderon called for reinstating the ban on assault rifles that expired during the Bush Administration. "You can clearly see how the violence began to grow in 2005, and of course it has gone on an upward spiral in the last six years."

The Senate Committee of Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse endorsed this call and called for a ban on the sales of weaponry that is clearly used for crime purposes rather than hunting.  This would exclude antiaircraft weapons, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns that are in the cartels' possession. The ban had to take account of the new trends in weaponry.

Currently, multiple sales of weapons to the same purchaser within five days are reported.  The Committee would broaden this to a month. Sales activities at gun shows also require tighter supervision.  Feinstein's office, during the investigation, encountered a person who had purchased 50 rifles in one go.

The findings were disputed by the gun manufacturers, who were convinced that this was a backdoor ploy to pass gun control legislation.

Another undercurrent was that this was politics, namely a Democratic attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters.