Illegal Weapons Trafficking Grows in Mexico

This is a report about the criminal gangs who smuggle weapons to Mexican drug cartels. Among them is the group known as The Arabs, who operate from southern Texas to Central America to procure weapons for the Zetas in Mexico.



The Intelligence Group of the Mexican Army Zone (GIZ) operating in northern Mexico, especially in the Gulf Coast, and those who patrol the border with Guatemala, are among the few who have heard of the Arabs. 

This criminal group controls safe houses in Guatemala-Mexico border and overlooks the Gulf of Mexico toward Texas, moving along this route all kinds of weapons and explosives.

Mexican Navy recently unveiled plans to start building nine bases and start patrolling the border with Guatemala to combat this phenomenon. Bases will be built with technology from the United States Navy.

 Hence the great interest in recent months shown by the White House and U.S. agencies for safety structures for containment and control programs in Mexico’s southern border, in operations coordinated with Mexican government authorities.


The region’s porosity and its lack of federal and local vigilantes enables the passage of drugs and weapons. It’s an area of free transit for organized crime.


This is the seventh Military Region and the second largest military deployment in the country, just below the First Military Region, in which there are 81,000 troops in three deployments surrounding the Federal District.

FREE TRANSIT. The First Military Region effort has been the most effective, although the Mexican military intelligence has discovered executions perpetrated by these groups to recover stolen or non-delivery of arms shipments.

Between October 9th and 11th this year, army officers backed by state police in Chiapas located three charred bodies bearing signs of torture in the town of Frontera Comalapa.

Then, during travels in the same area they found a safe house and an arms depot of the Zetas cartel, which were guarded by three people (John Rocha Flores The Neighbor, 33, a native of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Joel Diaz González El Piola, 21, and Silverio Osorio Lopez El Chiva o Changoleón, 41, originally from Huimanguillo, Tabasco).

The detainees confessed to the soldiers who were trained for a month in Guatemala, after being recommended by a catechist of the diocese of San Cristobal, El Comandante Uerco, techniques for arming, disarming and kaibiles survival.

Among the weapons secured in the southern border of Mexico were 306 shells for attachment size 40 mm, 22 rifle grenades, mines, and four charges of high explosive (TNT), eight bodies useful with propellants and a machine gun 7.62 x 51 (Barrett) .

In addition, they secured 21 AR-15 type rifles, 18 assault rifles, AK-47s, a 9mm rifle, five super .38 caliber pistol, 45 and 9 mm, one inlaid with precious stones and 17 thousand 212 cartridges useful of different calibers, portable radios, buttons and bulletproof vests, nine vehicles, with license plates from different states, one armored and fitted out as a "tank".

For the Mexican Army officials responsible for following up the trafficking of weapons and explosives, the finding made a significant shift to the data that was available about the presence and extent of trafficking as Arabs in the area, as these were not widespread more toward the Pacific.

Now there is evidence that also operate there and make it known methods eg employment of intimidation, cooptation or execution.



The existence of the Arabs was perhaps the best kept secret of the Gulf cartel when Osiel Cardenas Guillen was the top leader of that organization and the Zetas had as its armed wing to stop their opponents and violently break through in places controlled by other cartels or by serving smaller bands competition.

In that time, Arabs solidified a network traffic of small arms, grenades, boots and all kinds of attachments for automatic and semiautomatic weapons that strengthened Osiel people and therefore to the first generation of the Zetas.

Its working methods, his contacts and objectives achieved show that this group, estimated at 20 individuals, was consolidated and operates on several fronts inside and outside the country.

Are known to exist and that their work is comprehensive and effective, but it is physically impossible to locate or find out more about their movements.

According to military data that have avocado to follow them along the border with Texas, The Arabs have a strong police protection on both sides of the Rio Grande. This has prevented a bigger and better monitoring. Trace has cost lives here and there.

The extreme discretion in their operations and mobility enabled them to survive, although it has not been sufficient to prevent severe blows by the Mexican military.

On 6 November 2008, troops of the 4th Cavalry Regiment Motorized sent to Ciudad Reynosa, Tamaulipas, made up the base "Tango 10", responsible for carrying out reconnaissance missions in colonies and areas on which they have complaints and reports of high-impact criminal activity.

That day, the troops of the Base Tango 10 roamed the streets of Colonia Ramon Perez Garcia, in the Municipality of Ciudad Reynosa.

The first was that of General XICOTÉNCATL Axolohua Nunez, Chief of the Seventh, operations against drug trafficking, the National Defense.

On the premises of the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), the military showed on 8 November, the array comprising more than 500 thousand rounds of ammunition, 255 rifles, 126 handguns, 14 rifles FN Herstal P-90, 7 Barret rifles , 2 rifles caliber 50 mm caliber 37 mm 2 launchers, 1 machine gun, 98 grenades, 40 mm caliber, and 167 hand grenades, and chargers thousand, 976 thousand dollars, 86 thousand dollars, two vehicles, 14 tubes of dynamite and 14 "pictures" of plastic explosives.

Among the weaponry was struck insured 7 Barret rifles, caliber 50 mm, new, even with the stamps and registration marks of the companies that sold them.

Axolohua General explained that the discovery came after the military met with the two gunmen who see the military convoy fled, one facing the street and another to the inside of the house.

The other version was discharged on 10 February this year during the celebration of 94 anniversary of the Mexican Air Force (FAM), at Santa Lucia Air Base, where nine soldiers received medals for their achievements in combating drug trafficking.

One of them was Corporal Cavalry Rubén Vázquez de Leon, the 4th Motorized Cavalry Regiment (based in Tapachula, Chiapas) have found the arsenal after a confrontation, "according to the informed public attending the event .


BAGHDAD BEACH TO PUERTO MADERO. The Arabs have worked for nearly a decade, taking as a base of operations to the state of Tamaulipas, where the border cities of Reynosa, Matamoros and Laredo are essential points of operation for the group.

Hence have branched and extended to control the movement of arms and cartridges from the southern border of Mexico.

They were the first to introduce RPG and M-72, Barrett 50-caliber machine guns and won millimeters (defensive and offensive) as part of their arsenal to cope with the Mexican Army.

Some of the shipments they received in the early years of this decade came by sea to Playa Bagdad, located in the municipality of Matamoros, just 40 kilometers from the Rio Grande and one hour from Brownsville, at the gates of the state of Texas.

They were relatively simple operations, just steps from the border and with coverage and guaranteed police protection for arms and cartridges arrived in Matamoros and were distributed between the Zetas and other local bands.

The supply sources Arabs, according to military reports, extends along the Gulf of Mexico and do not stop at the border with Guatemala.

Previously, operators of the Zetas set up to achieve high-powered weapons move "with papers, legal documentation and clean resources" in the sale of arms fairs each month are held in cities like Phoenix, Arizona, where This year, between June and December, has been 5 gun shows in the capital of that state.

Tucson has been 5 in gun shows and made other 3 are missing on 24 October (at the Tucson Expo Center), 7 and 8 November (at the Pima County Fairgrounds) and 19 and 20 November (again in Tucson Expo Center) in accordance with the schedule of events distributed by the Citizens Defense League of Arizona (Arizona Citizens Defense League).

The Arabs operate with legal cover allowing them to travel along the border with the United States, directly buying or looking for second and third people or companies to place formal orders which are then diverted and end up in the hands of the Mexican cartels, military sources indicate.

The gun shows that take place every month in the border cities of the United States was in its early years the focus of its activities for the purchase of small lots of weapons and especially to connect to brokers and dealers in continental traffic in small arms .

On 10 July this year, the company Stratfor, U.S. firm specializing in security analysis, terrorism and global militarism, detailed in an article entitled "El Comercio de Armas Mexico / Latin American" (Stratfor on Mexican / Latinoamerican Arms Trade) explains that specialists in the purchase and sale of arms define three scenarios at the international level for this activity: the target market, marking gray and black market weapons.

The first is the legal market in which orders are purchases of arms and following all the procedures of law in which they should report exactly what kind of weapons are being bought, who they are buying, the characteristics of the same, as serial numbers and sequences for tracking who is the buyer, the amount of the purchase, delivery times, receiving and shipping to your destination.

This is normal procedure for buying weapons at the international level of government to another or one company. But this procedure is vulnerable and "can be manipulated, deceived." When this happens, is already talking about a gray market in which weapons are diverted to a third party through several mechanisms.

This procedure also distributed several thousand dollars to corrupt officials and staff responsible for verifying customs controls.    The most common and recurrent alteration of documents, pointing to a false destination for arms shipments. The document is often altered or falsified by customs officials in the country of departure. 

At its crudest, this market has the weapons to their real destination, but they end up being delivered by air, "bumped" on forested areas. Guerrillas or drug traffickers are responsible for collecting them.

The black market is the best known and is fed by weapons smuggled in from various countries (war zones, demilitarized zones, areas occupied by peacekeeping troops) or stolen goods back to their manufacturers, as in Russia, China, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Israel, Brazil and the United States.

In June this year, the General Accounting Office (General Accounting Office-GAO) of the United States released the report "U.S. Efforts to Combat Trafficking Arms to Mexico.

The Challenges of Planning and Coordination "(U.S. Efforts to Combat Arms Trafficking to Mexico. Face Challenges Planning and Coordination), which recognizes not only the absence of planning and strategy to address this phenomenon.

It also accepts that there is lack of coordination between the two major U.S. agencies responsible for combating trafficking in arms (the Federal Agency for Arms Control and Snuff-ATF, in English, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-ICE ), that detailed information, accurate information about the number of items insured in Mexico (over 30 thousand in the last two years) is unknown.

On June 19, U.S. Congress met to discuss the GAO document and its scope. The investigation caused controversy and was rejected by unreliable for several Republican senators. But the drafters recalled that the figures provided were provided by the ATF, which were not products of speculations and calculations by the GAO.

These are the facts, figures, said Jess Ford, Director of International Affairs and Trade of the GAO. At that time, the document GAO analyzed the result of tracing little more than 20 billion secured firearms in Mexico’s drug cartels and on which the Mexican government formally requested a trace to determine their origin.

The result was that 95 percent of those 20 thousand items were out of U.S. territory, of some 12 thousand authorized dealers (there are little more than 100 thousand legal settlements for arms sales throughout the U.S.) only in the southern United States to sell weapons, according to the Attorney General’s Office (PGR).



The civil and military information about the movements of Arabs is still bare and reaches to reveal just the tip of the iceberg of an organization dedicated to arms trafficking in Mexico.

 The network spans Europe and parts of Asia, and is reflected in the acquisition of rocket launchers in offensive and defensive grenades, hand grenades and 40 mm scopes, laser-sighted, tactical vests and hundreds of thousands of bullets of all calibers.

If not, the shipments are sent to focal points in Central America.

Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala operate as "pivots" as reception centers for delivering the goods.

This is the side that nobody takes into account, the southern border and the extreme ease with which they come and go around all sorts of things, according to reports from the National Defense on the issue of security in southern Iraq.

One of these, the most recent, noted in some of its paragraphs that:

"Traditionally it has always focused on the problem of arms trafficking as a phenomenon unique to the border between Mexico and the United States, leaving aside what happens in Central America and on our southern border.

"Areas such as Ciudad Hidalgo, Frontera Hidalgo and Talisman (in Chiapas) are points of the handover of weapons, mainly for those organizations that engaged in drug trafficking in the region, such as the Gulf Cartel.

"Only a small part of the weaponry that has entered the Gulf cartel in the north, because (operators) can not deliver ant in weapons shipments pass in five or ten pieces at most.

"In addition, most of the weapons is sent by parties and is brought to Mexico by people with legal residence papers and in the United States, ie have no problems entering and leaving the country.

"Deliveries are given more in the mode type ant. In the case of the Pacific and the north, Chihuahua, Durango, Sinaloa and Baja California, is greater in full loads. The Port of Manzanillo, in Colima, is a entry point for weapons and chemical precursors and money.

"The Port of Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacan, is preferably used for the entry of drugs and precursor chemicals, while the Veracruz is usually the point of arrival of arms shipments from the southern continent," says the document.



Weapons that are entering our country (and source model) and its price in the so-called black market.

MARK                                   Brand Source



Colt                                          EUA Colt U.S.

Norinco                                    China Norinco China

Marlin Firearms                       EUA Marlin Firearms U.S.

Bushmaster Firearmas            EUA Bushmaster Firearm USA

Beretta USA Corp                    EUA Beretta USA Corp USA

Pietro Beretta                           Italia Pietro Beretta Italy

Browning                                Bélgica, Alemania, Italia Japón y EUA Browning Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan and USA

Raven Arms                             EUA U.S. Arms Raven

Remington Arms                      EUA Remington Arms USA

Smith & Wesson                      EUA Smith & Wesson U.S.

Romarm/Cugir                        Rumania Romarm / Cugir Romania

Llama                                     Gabilondo & Cia. España Llama Gabilondo & Cia Spain

Mossberg                                  EUA Mossberg USA

Jennings Firearms                    EUA Jennings Firearms U.S.

Glock GMBH                            Austria. Glock GmbH Austria.

The illegal market value fluctuates depending on supply and demand, which can be found in a range from 800.00 Usd., To 2,000.00 USD., Additionally considering the age, condition, make, model and version of the material.

(Source: Arms Trafficking Mexico-USA. PGR, April, 2009).










  These passages of arms, ammunition, drugs and people are totally under control of the Zetas and are also the entry of M-72 rocket launchers, RPG and LOW from Asia, landed in Panama and then overland smuggled in small shipments, to Guatemala.

The activity of illegal gun buyers have closed the clamp on racking in operations not only involve market purchases calls white, gray and black are made with brokers in Europe and Asia, but also involve contacts and travel in South the continent. But here in Mexico, Ciudad Hidalgo is an essential point of the network formed in the southern border with Guatemala for other populations that serve as passage of arms and cartridges.

 These are the domains of people hired in turn by the Arabs to watch-and possibly buy or liquidate "those who are responsible for guarding the border between Mexico and Central America.