What Americans (and Canadians) Should Know About the Mexican Security Crisis

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Saying the situation in Mexico is bad is a gross understatement. Since the marine-lead capture of notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in Sinaloa back in 2016 and his subsequent extradition to the US in 2017, drug-related violence has skyrocketed in his native land.

Multiple cartels have risen up to take El Chapo’s place, and the casualties have been out of control. In the first two quarters of 2017 alone, more than 12,500 people have met their demise, either at the hands of the cartels or while caught in their cross-fire. That’s at least 2,000 dead on a monthly basis.

El Chapo’s absence sparked this violence in a number of ways, not least of which is the rivalry among cartels gunning for the number one spot. Everyone wants to be the grande queso of the region. The Sinaloa cartel is the most profitable cartel in Mexico and, as Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be the king.”

Consequently, there is a severe Mexican standoff of sorts going on between three groups including Guzman’s past associates and the ruthless former-soldados of the Beltran Levya Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

As anyone who’s ever watched The Sopranos can probably tell, there is rarely an agreeable plan in place for the changing of the guard when it comes to violent organized crime organizations. The Sinaloa Cartel is hardly an exception to that rule.

The part that should alarm Americans the most is the glut of influence that El Chapo and his clan amassed near the end of his reign. At the time of his recapture (El Chapo was originally captured in 1993 but allegedly escaped from prison in a laundry basket), Guzman had taken control of the vast majority of trafficking routes leading into the US.

With all of these factions fighting for control of this multi-billion dollar empire, the violence is only escalating. And it’s going to get worse now that the old cartels El Chapo had undermined are rising back up to reclaim their stronghold.

Members of the Zeta cartel

The scariest part of all is how vicious they have become. Like feral animals cornered, they are striking back with ferocity against any and all that stand in their way, whether it is rival criminals or government security personnel. And as they have proven time and again, they’re not afraid to kill their own.

A simple Google search for “chainsaw execution” returns a long number of horrific videos. Traitors or even suspected traitors end up in ditches alongside adversaries across Mexico City and beyond.

And as with the Islamic terror movement, the splintering is becoming great with more and more criminal organizations fragmenting into independent groups, and the in-fighting is intensifying.

While all of this began to transpire, new kids on the block entered the picture, looking for their piece of the proverbial pie. JNG (Jalisco New Generation) was founded in 2009 by Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes. Cervantes isn’t battling windmills as his last name would suggest, but he’s every bit as much of a menace to the Simaloa Cartel as his first name would.

JNG fronts as if they’re a nationalistic group, even going so far as to try and curry favor with the Mexican government, but they have proven themselves to be every bit as barbaric as the other animals looking to replace El Chapo.

How barbaric? Well, how barbaric is cannibalism? That’s right, JNG force their initiates to dine on the flesh of their victims. Fitting when one considers that members of Jalisco New Generation boast nicknames like “The Vulture.”

They are said to be more brutal than the notoriously brutal Los Zetas, which is really saying something. After all, the leader of the Zetas chopped up a six-year old girl with an axe.

For those familiar with Mexico’s past, this will probably seem like history repeating itself. Which it is. Every time the Mexican government has taken down a big-time drug trafficker, it has resulted in severe bedlam with every blood-lusting drug pusher looking to take the last guy’s throne.

If you remember the US takedown of Pablo Escobar, you probably remember the subsequent splintering of the Colombian drug trade. The current situation is not much different. Except for one vital factor that hasn’t been addressed nearly as much as it should be.

Mexico’s street war is being fought with guns from other countries. Between 2009 and 2014 alone, US guns in excess of 73,000 were seized by the Mexican government. Powerful, off the shelf semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 are being legally purchased in US border states and are then smuggled into the country, owing to their relatively low cost and lax gun laws in some border states.

Even as legislation is passed in the United States to limit or restrict the availability of firearms, another ongoing conundrum is rearing its ugly head. That is the transportation of unfinished gun parts into Mexico from the US. Taking advantage of a loophole in the US Gun Control Act, members of these sinister cartels are able to purchase all of the components of these rifles and move them into the country for the purpose of firearm assembly.

It’s a move that is ramping up the illegal gun trade and fueling the neverending battle for power among organized crime members.

But the US is not the real problem here. The mainstream media would have us believe that 90% of the firearms used to commit crimes in Mexico come from America when, in actuality, the real figure is closer to 16%.

The real problem is both a local one and a global one. On the local front, Mexicans are severely limited when it comes to legally obtaining weapons on their home turf. Since there are no private sector gun stores in Mexico, citizens must purchase them through the Defense Department’s Arms and Ammunition Marketing Division (UCAM).

The UCAM puts fastidious restrictions on certain calibers, and the laws are quite strict with the average citizen having to get government approval before they can obtain one. As a result, illegal gun sales have gone through the roof, not only among members of organized crime syndicates, but among the wealthier individuals who reside in Mexico, individuals who are dissatisfied with the lack of desired calibers.

Mexico’s booming black market sees rocket launchers coming from places like Spain and AK-47s coming from China. China has become one of the most common suppliers of military grade weapons in the region. These include fully automatic assault rifles and hand grenades.

Hezbollah and Russian organized crime groups have gotten in on the action, supplying firearms to groups in the region such as FARC. Guns are also smuggled in from South America.

Israeli Galil machine guns and European shotguns are among the other hot sellers. In addition to recent evidence suggesting that many among the cartels are doing business with an Israeli dealer or dealers, past trade in Latin America points to Belgium, the Czech Republic and Germany being involved in legal export of small arms and light weapons as well.

Many weapons, such as M60 machine gun and 40 mm grenades, arrive from the military arsenal of Guatemala (which the US government sold and/or furnished to the nation). El Chapo had quite the arsenal in his hideout before his capture; among the items on hand were a Soviet RPG, what appeared to be South Korean hand grenades, and a Barrett M82 .50BMG rifle from the Obama administration’s “Fast and Furious” program.

Weapons recovered from El Chapo’s hideout, including a Barrett M82 .50BMG provided from “Operation Fast and Furious”

Since El Chapo’s departure, things have only ramped up with exported weapons coming in from Italy, Turkey and beyond. Back in 2005, it was reported that the barbaric street gang MS-13 had most likely accrued around 100 M72 Light Antitank Weapons (LAWs) from Honduras and had passed them along to the cartels as a good faith gesture.

These are iron clad facts that aren’t often documented in mainstream news coverage, nor are they acknowledged by people like Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration, who started the whole “ninety percent” myth in an effort to push stricter gun legislation in the US.

What’s even more incredible is how this yarn that Holder and company spun was used to justify the Fast and Furious debacle, a grossly failed operation by the Arizona Field Office of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) which deliberately allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell guns to illegal straw buyers in a botched attempt at tracing them to Mexican cartels.

Ultimately, this operation enabled El Chapo to build up his arsenal, an arsenal he used to attack Border Patrol and Mexican government officials before his recapture. It’s a sad, ugly fact that the weapons that are supposed to be used against the narcos end up being used by the narcos. But it’s an even sadder and uglier fact that the mainstream news would have the general public believe that the US is chiefly responsible for the glut of firearms making their way into Mexico City and other cartel strongholds.

Despite this day-to-day tug of war between various factions of the cartels, the drug trade has continued to thrive with exports to the US reaching grandiose proportions.

Every action has its consequence and the consequence of the growing number of International drug sales is more and more bloodshed. The carnage is now spilling over into other regions of the country including areas that were previously hot spots for tourists.

Places that used to be virtually drug-free are now infested with criminal activity. Acapulco, once a beach resort town, is now the murder capital of Mexico with the casualty rate reaching record highs. American tourists have even found themselves among the victims of the violence in places like Cancun.

But it’s not just America that should be concerned about the Mexican drug war. Canadians should also be alarmed about the trouble that’s facing us all. The Mexican conflict started to spill over into Canada in 2009, posing a substantial security problem, and influenced a rash of British Colombia gang murders.

As far back as 2013, the Mexican cartels were taking the lives of eager Canadian mobsters who visited places like Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. At least one Canadian mobster was shot in broad daylight in a Mexican Starbucks.

As evidenced by a March 2017 article in the Huffington Post, written by a Mexican doctoral student at the University of Toronto, officials from Ottawa and Mexico City can no longer depend on American leadership to bridge the gap between Canada and Mexico. Nor can Canada rely on America to set an example in terms of on-going cooperation between our countries.

For the Citizens of the NRA, the situation is no better. In August, the US State Department released updated travel warnings encompassing 23 of Mexico’s 31 states, many of them meccas for tourism.

Fortunately, some of us are stamping out the second front that our country represents to the Simaloa Cartel by keeping it green.

Legal weed is starting to seriously steal the thunder from the Mexican drug trade. While the cocaine trade may still be booming, the pot game is plummeting. As of March of 2016, Southwest border seizures of marijuana had dropped to around 1.5 million lbs compared to almost 4 million lbs in 2009.

Still, change needs to come and we all need to wise up about what we’re actually dealing with. Before you get lost in a cloud of smoke, remember the importance of protecting our borders.


Note: This is a guest post by Will Ellis from Gun News Daily, an excellent resource for current events and information regarding firearms and firearm laws.