Friday, September 25, 2020

Ammunition Smuggling to Mexico, 13 Thousand rounds caught at Nogalas Border, again


wikimedia image of Morely Gate, Nogales, Arizona CC 4.0  Ian Pollet 18 April, 2019. Cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

 On 17 September, Mexican authorities said they were checking vehicles coming into Mexico when a car with Arizona plates tried to avoid the checkpoint. The car crashed into another vehicle. The authorities said they found 13,000 rounds of ammunition in the trunk. I do not recommend running from the Mexican authorities. Their rules of engagement are different. They will shoot, if they are able to do so.  From

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government says it has caught a U.S. citizen trying to smuggling 13,000 rounds of ammunition at a border crossing in Nogales, across the border from Nogales Arizona.

 This sort of smuggling activity is reasonably common. Here are a few instances from the U.S. side of the border:

 From May 2020

NOGALES, ARIZONA, US – CBP officers stopped a smuggling attempt of a shipment of 10,000 ammunition into Mexico.

The ammunition was seized by officers at the southbound inspection lanes into Mexico, according to the Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Roughly another 8,000 rounds of 7.62 x 39, from February, 2020,

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Border officers stopped a shipment of ammunition from entering Mexico on Wednesday in El Paso, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a news release.

CBP officers conducting southbound inspections stopped a Honda Civic with two female occupants shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday. Under a blanket in the rear seat, officers discovered 16 boxes of 7.62 mm cartridges. Each box contained 520 rounds of ammunition.

From February, 2019, smuggler released on own recognizance   in Nogalez.

Agents suspected Marco Antonio Peralta Vega, 35, was illegally exporting ammunition and tactical gear into Mexico. They already had tracked three shipments of body armor plates, which are restricted from being exported by federal law, to Peralta’s self-storage unit, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

By the time agents finished their investigation, Peralta was accused of smuggling 37,200 rounds of ammunition, 2,649 high-capacity rifle magazines, 120 body armor plates and three handguns into Mexico from March 2016 to December 2018, according to a Feb. 6 federal grand jury indictment.

Another article states that 282,000 rounds of ammunition were caught at the border of Arizona, being smuggled into Mexico, over a ten year period, ending in 2016.

10,000 rounds at a time may seem like a lot. It isn't.  These are all small time smugglers, lured by the relatively easy money of selling ammunition to willing buyers south of the border. The larger bulk quantities probably go to the cartels.
The cartels have much more reliable sources, consisting of the Mexican government itself, and worldwide sources from failed states and other governments.  Attempting to choke off their weapon supply with border controls is a losing game.
With billions of dollars to play with, the cartels could purchase their own manufacturing plants. The cartels have evolved into warlord type governments. If they offered better governance than the Mexican central authority, they would likely become states in their own right. 

Americans have a long history of smuggling guns and ammunition. Until the Progressive era, it wasn't even particularly illegal, except to those deemed enemies of the republic. Mexico was never very good at either arming their forces or maintaining the weaponry they had.  The fascinating essay on How not to arm a state says the major difference today is the cartels have lots of money and thus, access to weapons from numerous sources.
The difference: unlike the players and factions at work in Mexico’s nineteenth century, cartels have few barriers to engaging with the international arms trade wherever and however they wish. We hear a lot in the United States about narcotraficantes getting guns and ammunition from borderland gun stores and gun shows, often through straw purchases: individuals buying material in their name and then selling it to cartel agents. This is undoubtedly happening on a huge scale. It is a continuation of the bonanza of the Mexican Revolution, with hundreds or even thousands of petty Krakauers, Zorks, and Moyes hustling the tragedy across the border. The cartels cultivate these people and find them useful, but they don’t need them.Cartels get their guns from multiple sources.

The essay goes on to say that weapons and ammunition are cheaper in the overseas markets such as Somalia and easier to obtain, often, from the Mexican military and Honduras stockpiles.

A friend who was stationed in Yuma 30 years ago, recalls he thwarted a similar deal for 13,000 rounds headed South of the border. He noticed the sale at a gun store, was suspicious, followed the buyers, and watched them load the ammunition under a fabricated bed in the back of a van. 

He was "off duty" but called the port. They stopped the van. The smuggler was prosecuted.

The prosecutions are a minority of the smuggling which gets done. 

The common occurrence is the smuggler attempts to take a load through. They are successful. Success breeds arrogance, and they keep on trafficking until they are caught. 

Smaller quantities of ammunition are taken across the border by drone, flung by catapults or "water balloon" type sling shots. Massive quantities can be smuggled through four or six inch pipes which are horizontally drilled across the border into basements on the other side. 

The cartels are ultimately fueled by the money produced from the war on some drugs. It is hard to see that policy winding down anytime soon. 

Those who claim violence is fueled by weapons are ignorant of history. 

Violence is inherent in human nature. An  imbalance in weaponry invites aggression.  Secure governments, which enforce the rule of law, minimize violence.

The number of weapons in a society has little effect. Societies pre-gun were as or more violent as societies after guns were introduced. Guns, can, in fact "level the playing field" making society safer for the weak, elderly, and vulnerable.

©2020 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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