Sunday, November 21, 2010

The conventional wisdom is that the Mexican Cartels get their guns from the U.S. The usual culprits are gun shows, sleazy gun dealers who knowingly sell to "straw" buyers and, of course, guns stolen in the U.S. in the course of burglaries.

The usual number we hear is that 90% of the guns confiscated in Mexico can be traced back to the U.S. The truth is, that of all the guns confiscated by the law in Mexico, only a small percentage can actually be traced. And of that small percentage, 90% came from the U.S. No one has ever presented a clear picture of where the rest of the "untraceable" guns come from.

With the recent extradition of Viktor Bout, the notorious ex-Soviet military arms smuggler, it's worth considering once again the scope and volume of international illegal weapons trafficking. Below are two images of weapons confiscated after a huge firefight with a Cartel.

The images above should tell anyone with even minimal knowledge of weaponry that these are not the type you can buy at a gun show or steal from grandpa's closet. This is military weaponry. The top image shows  Russian made RPGs - Rocket Propelled Grenade. That's a standard weapon for Soviet bloc ground units and a favorite of insurgents and criminals wordlwide. Needless to say, it's not available for love or money in the U.S. You need to be seriously connected to get your hands on these.

The lower image shows a suitcase full of loose hand grenades and linked grenades. Like the RPG, there's no way these came from the U.S. through the "accepted" avenues of gun shows, straw buyers or burglaries. Those linked grenades are made to be fired from a full-auto grenade launcher. I'm not well-versed enough to determine which grenade launcher fires this particular round but the Russians, Chinese, U.S., Germans and virtually every arms-building country in the world has some version of a full-auto grenade launcher.

Did this stuff come from Viktor Bout or some other arms peddler? Probably. For sure it didn't come from a gun show or a kitchen table gun dealer.

Other images exist of confiscated equipment that isn't as sexy as the parade of firepower on display above. Here we're talking about Satphones linked to transponders on Chinese comms satellites, fully encrypted military radios with either Chinese, Korean or Russian markings and other fun stuff like plastique, remote controlled detonators and NVGs.

The simple fact of the matter is that Cartels can get anything they want on the clandestine weapons market. They've got the deep pockets to buy anything and they control the ports of entry.