Mexico’s President to Obama: Assault weapons from U.S. fuel drug violence
The drug trade was a key issue at a meeting between the United States, Mexico, and Canada heads of state in Washington, D.C., on Monday. (Photo: Juan Gastelum)
Mexican President Felipe Calderón Monday told President Obama that putting an end to drug-related violence in Mexico is impossible as long as the flow of weapons from the U.S. continues across its southern border.
Speaking alongside Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Calderón said he is “absolutely convinced” violence will go on unless the United States reinstates its ban on the sale of assault weapons.
Though Calderón acknowledged the Obama administration’s efforts to stop weapons from crossing the border into Mexico, he suggested that the United States needs more robust gun laws to help reduce drug violence in Mexico. The worst period of drug-related homicides in Mexico began, he said, soon after the expiration of the U.S.’s Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004.
The warning occurred following a meeting between the three North American leaders in Washington, during which they shared concern over the violent drug war in Mexico and Central America.
Obama promised greater cooperation between the two countries, saying the deaths of “innocent families, women and children [in Mexico and Central America]… should be everybody’s problem.” But he refrained from commenting on potential changes to U.S. gun laws.
“Criminal gangs, narco traffickers pose a threat to each of our nations, and each of our nations has a responsibility to beat that threat,” Obama said, adding that Calderon had “shown great courage standing up to traffickers and cartels.”
Obama said his administration has dedicated new resources to reducing the southbound flow of money and guns that fuel the drug trade. He said the U.S. is “teaming up” with Mexico and Canada, especially when it comes to addressing the demand for drugs and supporting Central America’s strategy on citizen security, which will be discussed at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia next week.
Defense ministers from the three countries also met to discuss possibilities for action one week ago.
Calderón, who is the last year of his presidency, went on the offensive against drug cartels in Mexico after taking office in 2006. The Mexican government estimates more than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related incidents since.
On Monday, Calderón said his government has confiscated around 142,000 arms. About 70 percent of those were assault rifles, and more than 80 percent of those were sold in American stores, he said.
“There are probably 8,000 gun stores along the U.S. border,” he said in Spanish. “That’s probably nine gun stores for every Wal-Mart on U.S. territory along the border with Mexico.”
Calderón also reiterated that his government did not consent to arms tracking operations orchestrated by U.S. agencies, such as the controversial “Fast and Furious” operation, in which high-caliber weapons were sold to Mexican cartels. It was later found that those weapons were involved in the deaths of thousands, including U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
Calderón emphasized that members of criminal organizations are not exclusively Mexican nationals, but rather transnational organizations operating across the hemisphere, including within the United States. In their own comments on the need for cooperation, President Obama and Harper echoed that statement.
“As these criminal networks are transnational, it’s important that our attempts to fight them be equally transnational,” Harper said. “That’s why we need to work together on this.”