By John Lindsay-Poland
In late September, the hacker activist group Guacamaya revealed a massive leak of four million emails from the server of the Mexican army, known as SEDENA.
The emails reveal how the Mexican army, a conservative institution known for its resistance to change, functions on many levels. Mexican journalists have published dozens of stories based on information from the hack about the army’s involvement in economic projects and cases of corruption of both military and civilian officials. The leaks show how the army spied on journalists using the Israeli spyware Pegasus, classified feminist groups as subversive, and spied on parents of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students and other social leaders.
Guacamaya made the material, consisting of six terabytes of data, available to journalists and researchers. Stop US Arms to Mexico obtained access to the trove of leaked material.
The Mexican army documents include detailed data on firearms recovered in Mexico and traced to purchases in the United States – data that the United States restricts because of the gun lobby. The Tiahrt Amendment, a federal budget rider since 2005, prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) from disclosing such trace data except to law enforcement agencies. This has limited understanding the patterns of gun trafficking from the United States to Mexico.
Reports shared with SEDENA give trace information on more than 22,000 firearms recovered in Mexico in 2019-2020 and traced to the United States, including the purchase location for US-manufactured weapons and the importer for weapons imported to the United States.
Of nearly 17,000 firearms produced in the United States and recovered in Mexico in 2019-2020, 321 were traced to distributors in the Mexican military or other Mexican state agencies, include 25 to state governments.
Texas and Arizona largest sources of guns trafficked to Mexico
The U.S. state from which most weapons were trafficked was Texas, consistent with U.S. data for the last 15 years. An infographic for guns recovered and traced in 2020 showed Texas had an even greater portion of gun dealers with multiple guns traced to them – 423 dealers, of 58% of the total – and of repeat purchasers of guns traced from Mexico, with 119 or 66% of the identified multiple purchasers in the United States. The infographic was produced by the Mexican government’s Center for Planning, Analysis and Information to Combat Crime (CENAPI), based on an analysis of 18,209 firearms recovered in Mexico from January 1, 2020 to December 3, 2020.
Arizona accounted for 151 firearms dealers with multiple sales of guns recovered in Mexico and traced back to them. The report identified an individual in Arizona who bought 149 firearms, including 140 in multiple purchases, that were recovered in Mexico. In October, the Mexican government filed a lawsuit against five firearms dealers in Arizona for allegedly illegal and negligent practices leading to large number of military-style weapons trafficked to Mexico.
Weapons imported into the United States and trafficked to Mexico were also plentiful. CENAPI reported 7,287 firearms recovered in Mexico that trace data showed were imported into the United States before being trafficked over the border. Six companies accounted for more than half of these imported, trafficked weapons: Glock (Austria), Romarm (Rumania), Taurus (Brazil), Beretta (Italy), Norinco (China), and Browning (Belgium).
At least one report in the leaked material documented weapons trafficking to organized crime by two army officers outside Mexico City in 2019. An officer offered 70 grenades for more than a thousand dollars apiece to operators in La Familia. The officer was identified by criminal operators as an aide to a colonel whom they called “new commander.”
A criminal leader sought seven thousand bullets for assault rifles from the officer, who in turn offered to collaborate in locating a prosecutor in the State of Mexico, whom the criminal group apparently planned to assassinate. The other officer linked in the report to the criminal group “La Familia” was the source of weapons and military equipment was based in Military Camp No. 1 in Mexico City.