Gun stores on the U.S.-Mexico border have recently been criticized for their firearms ending up in the hands of drug cartels. However, a 2008 diplomatic cable obtained by Wikileaks draws light on another source for the cartels by claiming that the Honduran military at that time “lost” several U.S.-supplied military weapons.
“The [United States Government] has become aware that light antitank weapons (LAWs) and grenades supplied to Honduras under the Foreign Military Sales program were recovered in Mexico and Colombia,” the cable said. “According to the [Defense Intelligence Agency] report, three light anti-tank weapons (LAWs) were recovered in Mexico City in January 2008, and one was recovered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in April 2008. ”
These revelations, paired with other recent allegations of Honduran government officials involvment in the drug trade, created a debate over who is the main weapon supplier of Mexico’s drug cartels and lead U.S. military personnel to imply that some of Central America’s armed forces are responsible for many of the weapons in Mexico.
“Over 50 percent of the military-type weapons that are flowing throughout the region have a large source between Central American stockpiles, if you will, left over from wars and conflicts in the past,” said General Douglas Fraser, the head of the U.S. Southern Command.
Guatemala has also drawn criticism for weapons from the country landing in the hands of drug traffickers. Guatemalan Vice Minister of Security Mario Castañada recently said that there are three known cases of drug traffickers stealing weapons from military arsenals.
One case that received considerable press was in March 2009 when Guatemalan authorities found military weapons stashed at a Zetas drug cartel training camp in the northern Quiche department. In April of that year, authorities found more weapons from the same source in a Zetas warehouse outside Guatemala City.
These weapons were allegedly obtained through sales or theft from the Mariscal Zavala military base.
The weapon’s black market in Guatemala is suspected to be controlled by a criminal organizations that evolved from the Cold War-era security forces and has retired and present military officers as well as government officials in its ranks. These members work together in counter-insurgency, intelligence, special forces, and death squads.
“Sometimes compared to a clandestine security apparatus or a parallel state, these operatives are described as the “hidden forces” running the country’s criminal networks: extortion, kidnapping, money laundering, smuggling migrants, drug trafficking, and the illicit arms trade,” wrote Elyssa Pachico for InSight.
Photo: rbreve @ Flickr.