Long under pressure to tackle drug trafficking, Mexico seeks to hold the United States partly responsible for widespread cartel-related violence by prosecuting US-based gunmakers for illegal gun trafficking .
The lawsuit filed in a Boston court is part of the Latin American nation’s efforts to put the issue of cross-border arms flows at the heart of the diplomatic conversation between neighbors, experts say.
“Mexico really manages to say that this is a bilateral problem,” said Cecilia Farfan, an expert in organized crime and US-Mexican security cooperation at the University of California at San Diego.
“The same way the United States says, ‘I need you to do something about illegal drug trafficking,’ Mexico says, ‘I need you to do something about guns.’ She said.
The lawsuit filed in early August accuses major arms manufacturers, including Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Colt, Glock, Century Arms, Ruger and Barrett, for trafficking in firearms that Mexico accuses of fueling bloodshed linked to cartels.
Between 70 and 90 percent of all guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico have been smuggled from the United States, according to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
They include Barrett semi-automatic rifles, Smith & Wesson pistols, and Ruger and Colt rifles recovered after an attack on Mexico City Police Chief Omar Garcia Harfuch in June 2020, according to the lawsuit.
– ‘Symbolic and political’ –
The litigation seeks redress for the damage caused by the companies’ alleged “negligent practices”, as well as the implementation of adequate standards to “monitor and discipline” arms dealers.
Even if it is not clear if the trial will be successful, “the objective is symbolic and political to open the debate”, estimates Romain le Cour, expert in the consulting firm Noria Research.
Mexico has seen more than 300,000 killings, most of them criminal gangs, since the government of then-President Felipe Calderon deployed the army in the 2006 war on drugs.
Many weapons arrive in Mexico from the United States through small-scale shipments known as “ant trafficking”.
“They bring them either in part or in whole with contraband goods, clothing and various items imported to Ciudad Juarez,” said Jorge Nava, prosecutor for the border state of Chihuahua.
A member of a vigilante group in the violent western state of Michoacan, who did not want to be named, said their weapons sometimes came from family members living north of the border.
“We started with hunting rifles, but everyone in the movement has relatives in the United States and from there they manage to send us good guns across the border,” he said under cover. of anonymity.
– ‘Front to sovereignty’ –
Mexico has seen an increased influx of partially assembled firearms known as “80 percent” guns that are finished in Mexico, according to a person involved in arms trafficking for two decades.
“It’s legal, and with it you can build an army,” he said on condition of anonymity.
The Mexican government says the lawsuit does not seek to change US laws such as the Second Amendment to the Constitution granting the right to bear arms.
However, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the US firearms industry, called the litigation “an affront to US sovereignty.”
“The Mexican government is responsible for the endemic crime and corruption within its own borders,” he said, blaming the drug cartels for the misuse of illegally imported firearms or stolen.
“Rather than seeking to scapegoat law-abiding US companies, Mexican authorities should focus their efforts on prosecuting cartels,” the association said in a statement.
The Mexican government accuses American manufacturers of developing different models of firearms especially for drug traffickers.
The arms trafficker, who operates in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, agreed that his country’s authorities share the responsibility.
“The Mexican authorities allow anything to enter the United States without checking it carefully, without proper controls, and also because of a lot of corruption in customs,” he said.
© 2021 AFP