Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Agents 'let cartels buy US gun'- BBC News online

15 June 2011 Last updated at 16:17 ET

Hundreds of US guns were bought, resold and sent to Mexican drug cartels in an Arizona sting operation while US firearms agents were ordered not to intervene, Congress has heard.

Three firearms agents said they were told to track the movement of the weaponry, but not to make any arrests.  US lawmakers expressed outrage at the details of Operation Fast and Furious.

The news comes one day after a report suggested Mexican drug cartels have armed themselves with US weapons.  The report suggests some 70% of firearms recovered from Mexican crime scenes in 2009 and 2010 and submitted for tracing came from the US.

On Wednesday, congressional lawmakers concluded that Fast and Furious, which was designed to track small-time gun buyers to major weapons traffickers along America's south-west border, never led to the arrest of any major traffickers.

The guns tracked by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were reportedly used in numerous killings in Mexico.

Lawmakers on the House of Representatives Oversight Committee said they demanded answers from the Obama administration about why no arrests were made while investigators were tracking the firearms.

"We monitored as they purchased handguns, AK-47 variants and .50 caliber rifles, almost daily at times," ATF agent John Dodson told the committee.  He added that though he wanted to "intervene and interdict these weapons", his supervisors told him not to make any arrests.

At a hearing prior to the panel, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said "hundreds upon hundreds of weapons" destined for cartels in Mexico were purchased in gun shops in Arizona.  Operation Fast and Furious was designed to track weaponry as it moved from small-time gun buyers to major traffickers, who have often avoided prosecution.

In December two US assault rifles were found at the scene of a shootout where Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry was killed.

"We ask that if a government official made a wrong decision that they admit their error and take responsibility for his or her actions," Robert Heyer, the deceased agent's cousin, told the panel on Wednesday.

Nearly 35,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, and many of the killings have been carried out with guns smuggled in from the US.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

U.S. guns fuel Mexico violence

A U.S. Congressional study reports that some 70% of firearms recovered from Mexican crime scenes in 2009 and 2010 can be traced to the U.S.  (According to today's BBC website).

My take... if the U.S. is not willing to curb the flow of guns to Mexico and Central America, then the countries that have been victimized by these guns should legalize the drug trade and end the senseless violence that has resulted from the 'drug wars'.  The drug trade is fuelled by American demand, and to add insult to injury, the US supplies the guns to the drug gangs.  Why should innocent Latinos pay the price with their blood?

Friday, June 10, 2011

A solution to police corruption?

Everyone complains about police corruption in Honduras, whether it's having to pay 100 Lemps when stopped by traffic cops or perceived police involvement in more serious crimes such as kidnappings and robberies.  A partial remedy to this problem, or at least a step in the right direction is simple and cheap.

Last month, I was in Ecuador as part of a business trip.  I noticed an article in the local paper announcing that as part of a government effort to 'increase public confidence in the police, insure a police force of high moral character, and to eradicate corruption', all police would have to undergo polygraph tests.  What a brilliant idea...both cost effective and an efficient deterrent!

Since Honduras is a poor country with meager resources, this type of preventive measure can be introduced without a great expenditure of public funds.  A private company could be contracted to administer the tests in order avoid any potential conflicts of interests or collusion.
I hope Oscar Alvarez will read this post and consider the idea, and that some of my readers will help to further publicize this idea and push for its implementation.

As an aside, the editorial cartoon that day was priceless.  It showed a large woman towering over her smaller husband who was sweating profusely during her interrogation, with the caption, 'poligrafo casero' (household polygraph).