Vice, Robin Eveleigh
January 28, 2020
From the safety of gleaming mansions in the foothills of the Italian Alps, government-owned munitions factories in Romania and Belgium, and boardrooms in Austria, Spain, Serbia, and the UK, Europe’s gun makers are reaping the bloody spoils of a catastrophic war on drugs, their weapons arming Mexican soldiers, cops and cartels alike.
United Nations Comtrade data shows Italy persistently exporting more handguns to Mexico than the U.S.; it sent three times as many in 2018. And SEDENA data compiled by John Lindsay-Poland of Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico shows that of 116,560 firearms recovered between 2010-2018, five European brands feature among the top 20 identifiable manufacturers, with Beretta leading the list of E.U. makes, though SEDENA’s figures don’t differentiate between guns entering via the States or direct from Europe.
There is hope that the tide is turning.
In October, in direct response to the Sinaloa cartel’s deployment of armor-piercing .50 calibre rifles in Culiacán, Mexico’s foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard announced a new joint initiative with the U.S., Operation Frozen, “to freeze the traffic of arms that is killing people in Mexico.” A senior Mexican government source told VICE, “Something similar is probably going to be launched in the future with the EU.”
Last year, in a prosecution brought by peace activist Jürgen Grässlin, Heckler & Koch (H&K) was fined €3.7m for breaching Germany’s War Weapons Control Act when 4600 G36 assault rifles were illegally diverted to the violence-ridden states of Chiapas, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Guerrero.
“Arms manufacturers really don’t care where their guns end up or how they’re used, as long as they fill out the paperwork,” said Lindsay-Poland. “The stories of people who are losing family members, or who are maimed or recovering from the trauma of gun violence are not part of the arms industry’s calculus, and that’s why it’s so important for civil society to be stepping in.”