Latin America Advisor

Latin America Advisor

A Publication of The Dialogue

How Are Mexican Cartels Getting U.S. Military Weapons?

Military-grade weapons from the United States are ending up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, and Mexico’s foreign secretary is demanding an explanation. Weapons seized in Mexico are pictured. // File Photo: State of Michoacán.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Alicia Bárcena on Jan. 22 demanded an investigation into how military-grade weapons from the United States have been winding up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Such weapons include grenade launchers, rocket launchers and fully automatic machine guns. The same day, a U.S. appeals court in Boston revived a $10 billion lawsuit that Mexico filed against gun manufacturers whose weapons wind up in the possession of Mexican drug traffickers. How are U.S. military-grade weapons not available to civilians winding up in Mexico? How well are the two countries working together on this issue? What kind of policy initiatives could either or both countries put into effect in order to fight weapons trafficking? How much commitment to resolving the problem exists on both sides?

Arturo Sarukhan, board member of the Inter-American Dialogue and former Mexican ambassador to the United States: “Trafficking of American-sourced firearms into Mexico is a national security threat for both nations. Military-style weapons are smuggled in huge numbers from the U.S. civilian market to Mexican criminal organizations because it’s the easiest, cheapest place in the world to purchase them, thanks to straw purchasers, weak gun laws, regulatory loopholes and a deliberate strategy by the U.S. gun industry to design and sell military-style weapons to civilians. It should come as no surprise that there are more gun shops along the border with Mexico than Walmarts. But the problem isn’t only the American regulatory framework or the impact that…”

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The Inter-American Dialogue publishes the Latin America Advisor every business day for a distinguished membership of informed corporate leaders, scholars, and government officials invested in Latin America’s development and future. The Advisor‘s highly regarded Q&A section covers questions submitted by subscribers themselves. Commentators regularly include heads of state, business leaders, diplomats, economists, analysts, and thought leaders from around the world. Many of the world’s largest and fastest-growing companies subscribe to the Advisor. To subscribe click here or for more information, contact Gene Kuleta, editor of the Advisor, at

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