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April 5th, 2010
05:29 PM ET

Arms Trafficking at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Two of the victims were U.S. Consulate employee Lesley Enriquez and her husband, Arthur Redelfs.
Two of the victims were U.S. Consulate employee Lesley Enriquez and her husband, Arthur Redelfs.

Foreign Policy in Focus

Lately, the news from Mexico has not been particularly positive. Every day the number of victims of the ongoing turf wars in the northern border area of the country grows. In 2009, Mexico reported 7,724 drug war-related deaths,1 while in January of this year alone, the number of people killed in Ciudad Juárez reached a stunning 227. Recently, over the weekend of March 13, 2010, nearly 50 people were killed in that bloody city, including employees and family members of the U.S. Consulate. Most scholars and politicians believe that these deaths are all related to drug gang activity, implying that they are the result of in-gang struggles for control of businesses and territory; fights amongst gangs for routes, and because of clashes with the military.

Much of the discussion and debate regarding the sad situation along the U.S.-Mexican border has been centered on analyzing drug policy and immigration laws. No doubt failed drug policies and practices are fueling much of the violence across the American border. More recently, however, and for the purposes of this essay, a focused discussion on the guns that fuel such violence is taking shape.

Mexico has very strict gun-ownership laws. While the country’s constitution allows for citizens to bear arms, the conditions it places on this ownership—through amendments to the constitution—are much more limiting. Indeed, only one entity is permitted to sell weapons, and it is run by the army. This does not imply that the situation is perfectly controlled, however; there are certainly ways around any law or institutional arrangement. Yet the violence in the northern border states of Mexico seems to be nurtured not only by weapons acquired illegally from Mexico, but also by those trafficked illegally from the United States.

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Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Hispanic • Mexico
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