Geopolitical Monitor, March 9, 2023
Members of the Sinaloa Cartel expressed their appreciation for the availability and abundance of guns in the US in a recent documentary. The flow of illicit firearms from the US to Mexico is well-documented, but it is uncommon for members to share details of their organization’s illicit activities, especially to a film crew. The members’ openness shows a high level of confidence in their cartel’s ability to continue receiving US guns, despite ongoing law enforcement efforts.
This illicit economy and the Sinaloa Cartel’s role in it are widely known. With a long history and reputation of indiscriminate violence, the Sinaloa Cartel is the most powerful group in Mexico’s criminal underworld. And guns are critical to their power. Luckily for Sinaloa, there’s an arsenal next door. Like the Sinaloa members said in the documentary, obtaining and trafficking them is easy, plus there are plenty to go around.
The US manufactured more than 11 million guns in 2020 and more than 13 million in 2021. And the Mexican government estimates that 200,000 are smuggled each year. The exact number of US guns in Mexico is unknown, but a study by the Government Accountability Office found that 70 percent of guns recovered in Mexico between 2014 and 2018 came from the US. It is difficult to quantify the exact number of US guns in Sinaloa’s arsenal, but in the documentary, a member stated they currently have thousands of .50-caliber sniper rifles. This rifle is a favorite among cartels because it fires a bullet roughly the size of a cigar that can penetrate bullet-proof armor and vests. Many view these rifles as ‘weapons of war’ because the US military used them in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to data cited in the documentary, 279 .50 caliber rifles from US gun stores were recovered in Mexico since 2016.