Gunrunners Weekly Update: March 22, 2011
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News and updates as part of our ongoing Gunrunners investigation.
New Mexico Officials Indicted in Trafficking Operation
The Columbus, N.M. mayor, police chief and a town trustee are among 11 people accused of trafficking firearms into Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the 84-count indictment, the members of the ring bought 200 firearms over a 14-month period from Chaparral Guns, whose owner was also charged. The majority of those firearms were AK-47-style pistols, which have become increasingly popular with the Mexican cartels.
U.S.-Mexico Drone Program
The New York Times reports that Mexico and the U.S. are collaborating on gathering intelligence on drug cartels using unarmed U.S. drones.
The program, which the two countries agreed to continue during Mexican President Felipe Calderón's visit to the White House on March 3, was kept secret due to Mexico's strict constitutional rules regarding military intervention by foreign countries.
Administration officials say that one drone was instrumental in tracking down suspects in the February murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] Agent Jaime Zapata.
U.S. Seeks Extradition of ICE Agent's Killers
Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano told the House Committee on Homeland Security on March 3 that she's seeking to extradite ICE Agent Jaime Zapata's killers, according to the Houston Chronicle. Twelve suspects are currently in custody in connection to his February murder.
The Chronicle also reports that a likely condition of extradition would be a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole; Mexico rarely extradites suspects to countries that have the death penalty.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Resigns
In the cables, Pascual "questioned Mexico's institutional capability to combat the cartels, and described the Mexican army as inefficient." FT reports that "his resignation is understood to be the first WikiLeaks casualty of a US diplomat in a foreign posting."
For background, view this November 2010 symposium video from the Council on Foreign Relations in which Pascual discusses U.S.-Mexico relations.
Mexico's Violence: Recent Incidents
The Associated Press reports that three children and two teenagers have died in Acapulco in the past week due to drug-related violence. The violence is purported to be between rival factions of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel, who began fighting after the 2009 death of boss Arturo Beltrán Leyva.
InSight's Hannah Stone investigates a recent spate of eight murders in the border city of Tijuana, asking whether or not they suggest a return to high crime rates in the region. Her conclusion: The complicated cartel politics of the region have more to do with the killings than the government's efforts to reduce crime in Tijuana, and she states that "this year's murders can be blamed on the different factions continuing to settle their shifting alliances in the wake of the 2008 split" of the Tijuana Cartel.