The issue has been highly politicized in the United States. Proponents of more gun control contend that most of the weapons come from the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Barbra Boxer claim as much as ninety percent of all the firearms come from the United States. Some others have gone as far to claim these weapons are bought from gun stores and gun shows directly.
The claim is alarming. It indicates a new stage in irregular warfare. Instead of relying on black market arms runners, it seems possible for Mexican anti-government forces to purchase openly and directly in the open market. This; however, does not appear to be the case.
While ninety-percent of weapons sent to the United States for tracing are from the United States; only a small percentage are sent to America for tracing. It appears only seventeen percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico's gun war are from the United States.
So where are the weapons coming from? According to the Fox News article:
- The Black Market. Mexico is a virtual arms bazaar, with fragmentation grenades from South Korea, AK-47s from China, and shoulder-fired rocket launchers from Spain, Israel and former Soviet bloc manufacturers.
- Russian crime organizations. Interpol says Russian Mafia groups such as Poldolskaya and Moscow-based Solntsevskaya are actively trafficking drugs and arms in Mexico.
- South America. During the late 1990s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) established a clandestine arms smuggling and drug trafficking partnership with the Tijuana cartel, according to the Federal Research Division report from the Library of Congress.
- Asia. According to a 2006 Amnesty International Report, China has provided arms to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Chinese assault weapons and Korean explosives have been recovered in Mexico.
- The Mexican Army. More than 150,000 soldiers deserted in the last six years, according to Mexican Congressman Robert Badillo. Many took their weapons with them, including the standard issue M-16 assault rifle made in Belgium.
- Guatemala. U.S. intelligence agencies say traffickers move immigrants, stolen cars, guns and drugs, including most of America's cocaine, along the porous Mexican-Guatemalan border. On March 27, La Hora, a Guatemalan newspaper, reported that police seized 500 grenades and a load of AK-47s on the border. Police say the cache was transported by a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Ixcan, a border town.
In the past Latin American insurgencies relied on Soviet or American direct arms supplies, supplies from supportive neighboring regimes like Cuba and Nicaragua, or the black market. The fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War led many to hope that the high point of Latin American insurgencies was over. The thought was that the black market was too expensive for anything more than city-level gangsters. However, the American taste for narcotics allowed for drug groups to afford a wide range of weaponry. This was first proved by Pablo Escobar and continues to be proved by nacro-terrorists groups today.