Four people on December 8 have been horrifically shot and killed in an ambulance in war-torn Cuidad Juarez. Yet, this tragedy comes as no surprise due to the regular reports of murder and mayhem coming out of Mexico. These incidents, as seen in Cuidad Juarez, are a part of the ongoing Mexican drug war.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is making the drug war worse by its failed law enforcement operations and its own inadequacies with gun control laws. America is causing needless civilian deaths on both sides of the border.
For example, in law enforcement operations such as Fast and Furious and Wide Receiver, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) allowed gun runners to buy firearms for the cartels and transport them, hoping they would help track down larger bosses. The D.E.A. has also led controversial money laundering stings in order to see how the system works. Fighting this war is becoming not just a failure, but an embarrassment because the results are unsuccessful and have led to many deaths.
The Guardian estimates that 45,000 deaths have occurred in the last five years in Mexico alone. CNN estimates that the homicide rate in Ciudad Juarez stands at an average of six people daily. This kind of crime is beginning to spill over the border and is therefore resulting in American deaths as well. Only last year Brian Terry, a border patrol agent, was shot and killed. Near the scene were two American-made guns, purchased from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in the disastrous Fast and Furious operation. American policies and law enforcement actions are only exacerbating Mexico’s war on drugs. Both supply the cartels with the guns and ammunition to continue killing; in turn, the guns provide protection for their trade and thus the funds to secure more guns and more capital.
Eighty-seven percent of all arms in the cartels' hands are from the U.S. “The United States is the easiest and the cheapest place for drug traffickers to get their firearms, and as long as we are the easiest and cheapest place for the cartels to get their firearms there'll continue to be gun trafficking," said J Dewey Webb, an ATF special agent to the Huffington Post.
Most of the weapons are legally bought in gun shops and then illegally smuggled into Mexico. It’s impossible to tell how many have slipped into Mexico. According to one of the leaders in the Zeta’s cartel, Jesus Enrique Rejon, “All the weapons are bought in the United States.”
How exactly is this happening? Most of the guns are bought from U.S. citizens called straw-buyers, and then delivered to drug-traffickers. They are paid anywhere $50 to $500 for each buy. Straw-buyers are usually poor, which makes this an attractive opportunity. Mexican president Felipe Calderon and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have pleaded for tougher arms control legislation, but these pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Within our law enforcement, specifically the ATF, Fast and Furious and Wide Receiver operations have come under the media microscope. Originally, these operations were intended to investigate how the networks were run. ATF agents would sell gun runners firearms through gun shops and track their movement in order to identify the bosses of the cartels. Out of 2000 weapons, the ATF has lost track of 1,400. The arms have since been linked to a number of deadly crimes in Mexico. Adding to American embarrassment, the DEA has shipped hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profit across the border and has also laundered money in an attempt to understand how the cartels operate. These reckless blunders are only fueling the war and are responsible for a number of murders in Mexico. Which begs the question: Is America really treating war with the seriousness that it deserves?
It’s hard to understand the mentality of our do-nothing Congress. The U.S. is giving money and supplies to cartels, and thus the war, by allowing our system to be exploited. It's time we start doing more for the Mexican government, our ally in the war on drugs.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons