By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
While the United States may have serious and justified concerns about a porous border with Mexico allowing illicit drugs and undocumented immigrants entering its territory unlawfully, Mexico is equally concerned about the illicit flow of firearms into its territory.
According to Renato Sales Heredia, head of Mexico’s National Security Commission (CNS), at least 2,000 illegal firearms enter the country each day from the United States.
Speaking at a forum of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) Institute of Judicial Studies, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, Sales Heredia said that to stop the flow of these illegal weapons – which help to feed the surging violence nationwide – Mexico desperately needs the assistance of the United States.
To that end, he said that the current Mexican government has proposed to Washington that a binational joint police force be established to check border points, exchange information and conduct regular security operations.
Sales Heredia said that the proposed force, which would be composed of members of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and Federal Police, would allow all participating agencies to operate in “a more agile manner.”
He added that discussions for the creation of the joint team are now underway and will, no doubt, be taken up under the new administration of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who is due to take office on Dec, 1.
“Most of the arms coming into the country enter via four U.S. states; California, Arizona, New Mexico and, principally, Texas,” Sales Heredia said.
“The simple fact of the matter is that many of the firearms sold in the United States end up in the hands of criminals operating in Mexico.”
Sales Heredia also pointed out that, in the United States, “it is easier to purchase a semi-automatic firearm than to get a bottle of cough syrup.”
“You need a medical prescription to buy the cough syrup, but you don’t need anything to buy a semi-automatic weapon,” he said.
Sales Heredia said that stricter laws on both sides of the border regarding the purchase and cross-border transport of firearms are essential to national security.
“This imitative is not a political issue; it is a matter of common sense,” he added.
“If a person is stopped (at the border) carrying an AK-47, seven Barrett large-caliber rifles and two hand grenades, it is a pretty sure bet that he is not going to be using them to hunt deer.”
Last year, 15,316 firearms were confiscated at the border by U.S. authorities, compared to 13,710 in 2016, but Sales Heredia said that far more guns cross into Mexico than are detected.
Crime in Mexico has been on a steady upward climb for the last five years.
In 2017, Mexico reached the dubious distinction of having recorded its most violent year on record, with more than 23,000 murders.
That translates to a disturbing rate of one death every 20 minutes.
Although the figures for 2018 are still not out, in the first half of the year, homicides in Mexico rose by 16 percent compared to the same period for the previous year.
Based on government figures, there were 15,973 homicides in the first six months of the year, compared with 13,751 killings during that period in 2017.
The states with the highest incidences of murder, according to the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP), are Guerrero, Baja California, the State of Mexico, Veracruz and Chihuahua.