Posts Tagged arms
Carlos Slim Helú, the wealthiest man in the world according to the most recent Forbes magazine rankings (April 2010), announced $8 billion in investments for telecommunications systems, infrastructure and mining industries to assuage concerns about dangerous financial conditions in Mexico caused by drug violence. Forty percent of the money invested will be focused on growth in the telecommunication industry over which Slim Helú maintains dominance with the largest sectors of his conglomerate Grupo Carso, being cell-phone giant América Móvil and phone company Telmex. With economic instability worldwide, Slim Helú is attempting to maintain the stable conditions in Mexico by continuing investment and moving the country forward. In addition, the drug violence is not solely a Mexican problem, but truly a transnational issue, “Estados Unidos se queda con el dinero y con lo que consumen, y Mexico con la violencia y las armas”, commented Slim Helú. According to “La Jornada”, three billion of the eight billion dollars will be directly invested in Mexico while the other $5 billion will be distributed in Latin American countries where Helú’s company Telmex operates, including $2 billion to Brazil. The money invested in mining areas will be used for investment purposes, both in the mines and with state and local governments, to encourage alternative employment opportunities in fields such as education, health and technology.
San Diego Union Tribune: ATF, ICE catch heat on gunrunning – Report faults agencies for lack of coordination
A Government Accountability Office report yesterday criticized Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for not working together to stop the flow of guns into Mexico.
In testimony prepared for a House subcommittee hearing, the GAO noted that the two agencies only recently stepped up their coordination with each other and with their Mexican counterparts to stop gunrunning along the border.
Rep. Eliot Engel, who chairs the subcommittee, said there should have been an anti-gunrunning strategy in place since October 2007, when the United States and Mexico agreed to the joint cartel-fighting Merida Initiative. The Merida Initiative aims to help Mexico acquire equipment for the drug battle and improve its police and judicial institutions.
Engel, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the firearms flowing illegally from the United States into Mexico have made the drug cartels’ jobs easier.
Michael Hoffman, spokesman for the ATF’s Los Angeles field division, which includes the California-Mexico border, said: “We are working on a daily basis with ICE. . . . Not only do we conduct joint investigations, but we share intelligence.”
Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for ICE in San Diego, referred questions about the report to Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington. She said the ATF and ICE have been working together to combat smuggling and violence through the Border Security Task Force.
ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said the two agencies pride themselves “on the strength of our relationships with law enforcement partners at every level and throughout the country.”
The GAO report released yesterday cited several examples of miscommunication between ICE and the ATF. The ATF did not tell ICE about a covert operation in which ATF agents delivered weapons across the border in an attempt to ferret out the Mexican organizations receiving illegal arms, the report said.
During another operation, an ICE agent unknowingly kept covert watch on the activities of an undercover ATF agent investigating a suspected trafficker, the report said.
Drug-related murders in Mexico doubled last year, to 6,200, as cartels fight for the American addict’s dollar while relying on American gun dealers for their weapons. A new report to Congress traces over 90 percent of guns recovered in Mexican drug crimes in the last three years back across the border, where legal and illegal American dealers flout federal laws rife with loopholes.
The findings contradict gun rights groups’ claims that foreign dealers are supplying the cartels’ arms. In fact, 70 percent of 20,000 weapons recovered were traced to legal gun shops and unregulated gun shows in Texas, California and Arizona, according to the Government Accountability Office report.
The report confirmed the arguments of Mexican officials who are pressing Washington for stricter gun controls. While the Obama administration has sketched a new strategy to combat gun trafficking, the report warns of considerable obstacles.
It found that the separate American agencies charged with controlling the sales of firearms and policing immigration are doing a poor job of sharing information and coordinating policy. Gun tracking software is yet to be translated into Spanish for full use by Mexican authorities. What is also clear is that the American gun dealers — 6,700 of them clustered along the border — are supplying increasingly powerful military style weapons as the cartel wars intensify.
America must finally act. Private home-based dealers and gun show armorers should finally be regulated as rampant threats to public safety. Congress must repeal restrictions that prevent a national gun registry and bar local enforcement agencies from sharing in federal tracing information.
The report underscores Washington’s political cowardice and the frightening cost, as the mayhem spreads south of the border and threatens to move northwards.
By Ioan Grillo / Mexico City Thursday, Jun. 11, 2009
It was the last image the Mexican government wanted from one of its sunny seaside resorts. In the heart of Acapulco, soldiers fought a blazing battle against drug-cartel thugs who sprayed bullets from Kalashnikov rifles and hurled more than 50 grenades. After hours of the warlike scenario, 13 gunmen, two bystanders and two soldiers lay dead on the concrete. Worst of all, the shoot-out happened in the middle of a sweltering Saturday night less than 100 yards from Los Flamingos Hotel, which in its heyday saw Hollywood stars such as John Wayne and Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller party until dawn.
Last weekend’s Acapulco firefight was the latest episode of close urban combat in Mexico as cartel militias fight one another and the government for the bounty of the drug trade. But its time and place could not have been more unfortunate. After tourism was shattered by the swine flu scare, Mexico just two weeks ago launched a campaign to try to lure holidaymakers back to its paradise beaches. Under the slogan “Vive México” (Long Live Mexico), the $90 million effort is using such stars as Spanish tenor Placido Domingo and soccer ace Rafael Márquez to show off the golden sands. But while Vive México has yet to have much international impact, the wild seaside shoot-out grabbed the attention of TV stations from Long Beach to London. (See pictures from Mexico’s drug war.)
Until early 2009, it was difficult to gauge exactly how many foreigners were scared away by the drug war and its piles of headless corpses. The global economic crisis may have done just as good a job of keeping potential visitors at home. In any case, while tourism was hit in the first months of 2009, it was not devastated; for example, the Riviera Nayarit on the Pacific coast reported hotel occupancy of 83% in February, compared with 90% in the same month of 2008.
But then came disease. While the drug war may have given a few people the jitters, the swine flu sent many more running for their lives. As news of Mexicans sputtering to death on hospital beds shot round the world, tourists fled resorts in packed planes while many more upcoming holidays were canceled. At the Riviera Nayarit, hotel occupancy in May plummeted to 33%, compared with 70% in the same month of 2008. In some other resorts, it was down to single figures. And most of the visitors who came were Mexicans, not foreigners. “It was like first getting a cough and then getting hit over the head with a shovel,” says Marc Murphy, director of the Riviera Nayarit tourism board. (See pictures of swine flu in Mexico.)
Like most tourism officials in Mexico, Murphy complains the media showed the country in an unfairly bad light. He is quick to point out there have been no documented cases of any holidaymakers being directly affected by the Mexican drug war. “Somewhere like Los Angeles has many more gang members and killings than the places the tourists visit here,” Murphy says. “But Mexico has got more negative coverage than most countries. There has also been some irresponsible and incompetent reporting.”
President Felipe Calderón is also critical of the media spotlight shining on Mexico. He was particularly incensed when Forbes magazine included Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzmán on its richest list — he was put at No. 701, with an estimated net worth of $1 billion. “Magazines are not only attacking and lying about the situation in Mexico but are also praising criminals,” he said in March, following the Forbes choice. (TIME later went on to include Guzman in its TIME 100 list, noting that criminals are, unfortunately, influential in today’s world.) (See pictures of America’s gun culture.)
Calderón is particularly concerned about the nation’s image because of the bottom line. In 2008, foreign tourists spent $13.3 billion in Mexico, the third biggest source of foreign income after remittances and oil exports. This year all three of these moneymakers are being clobbered. While the price of petroleum nose-dived with the crisis, the recession north of the border pushed Mexican remittances down 18.6% in April compared with the same time last year. To add to these woes, Mexico’s manufacturing sector has been battered by a drop in spending in the U.S. In total, the Mexican government predicts the economy will shrink 5.5% this year. But some private analysts speculate the decline might be more than 8%, the worst dive since the Great Depression.
Calderón argues that the ability of Mexicans to deal with this challenge will be crucial to luring tourists back. Personally launching the Vive México campaign in his presidential palace, the President focused on selling Mexican character. “Let us tell the whole world that we are a strong nation with a unique unity and identity,” he said, “that no matter how hard or difficult the tests we have to face, particularly at the present time, Mexico is united and will overcome them.”