Many southern neighbors are hopeful about the overwhelming victory in Mexico by new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who enjoys comparisons with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. But the logistical and political challenges that face López Obrador are enormous.
Since Mexico’s transition to nominal democracy in the last two decades, crime and gun violence continue to afflict communities throughout the country, with more gun homicides in 2017 than any year on record and increased violations by state forces, many of whom are colluding with criminal groups. More than 120,000 people have been killed during the term of outgoing president Enrique Peña Nieto.
This is not just a concern for Mexicans. Mexican gun violence remains a moral crisis of complicity for those of us in border states that oversee the legal and illegal provision of weapons used for violence in Mexico. The market for semi-automatic assault rifles provided by gun shops in Tucson and other southwestern cities is perfect for criminal groups that use them to commit violence in Mexico.
For example, a local gun shop sold at least nine guns, including assault rifles, that were trafficked to Mexico and recovered at crime scenes between 2007 and 2010 (the period for which detailed data is available). The sales are part of the 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico that are traced to U.S. gun stores.
Also in Tucson, just a short westerly walk from Flowing Wells High School, Milkor USA produces grenade multi-launchers in partnership with Abrams Manufacturing that are used by the Mexican army’s Special Forces Group (GFE). The GFE, which has received U.S. military training, is the successor to the Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFEs), many of whom received U.S. military training and later founded Los Zetas, one of the most feared and brutal Mexican cartels.
In 2016, Mexico purchased more than 2,000 military rifles from Mesa-based Nammo Talley, for more than $8 million. Dillon Aero, in Scottsdale, has sold Mexican forces 44 mini-guns, at $67,600 apiece, that fire 125 rounds per second. One was fired from a helicopter to kill five people in a massacre in Tanhuato, Michoacán, in 2015, according to an investigation by Mexico’s national human rights commission.
Raytheon Missile Systems produces bomb kits and missiles designed to carry cluster bombs at its Tucson location next to the airport and recently agreed to export missiles for $41 million to the Mexican Navy. Raytheon cluster bombs have been exported from Tucson to Saudi Arabia and earlier this year killed 23 people at a wedding in Yemen. Last year, Arizona companies exported an unprecedented $8.1 million worth of “military explosives” to Mexico.
In this climate, bold advocacy work is needed more than ever. On Nov. 16, for example, more than 300 people peacefully protested Milkor USA’s exports from its Tucson plant of grenade launchers to Mexico. The protest occurred on the 10th anniversary of the forced disappearance, torture, and murder of two brothers from their home, carried out by the same special forces armed by Milkor’s weapons.
The best way for us to support Mexicans in their quest for peace is to stop the causes of bloodshed. That includes stopping the massive flow of guns used in the violence.