By Sergio Aguayo
From La Reforma, February 8, 2017
The readjustment of Mexican national security depends on the Congress. When its members discuss the proposed Internal Security Law, they should incorporate the US angle, in particular the legal and illegal sale of weapons.
Mexico is a bread basket for those who like weapons. One consequence is the epidemic of deaths and injuries, silenced and minimized by the governments of Mexico and the United States, and by the U.S. companies that supply war materiel to both sides in the conflict. The military and police acquire it legally; organized crime by clandestine means. The two markets are formally separate, but with many connections between the two.
According to Iñigo Guevara (quoted by The Washington Post), between 2012 and 2015 the Mexican government bought $3.5 billion worth of arms from the United States. John Lindsay-Poland, an analyst with the American Friends Service Committee, found evidence of a contract unknown until now. In April 2015, the Army (SEDENA, by its Spanish acronym) signed an agreement with Sig Sauer, a U.S. company with origins in Germany, to acquire up to US$265 million in pistols, assault rifles and other firearms. If these were just pistols, SEDENA would receive 400,000 of them in the coming years.
A part of this arsenal will be used by the armed forces; another part will be sent to the state and municipal police departments. Those that are delivered to the police could end up in the hands of criminals, because Mexico lacks adequate weapons controls. In other words, SEDENA would be arming their own enemies on the battlefield.
There is another, more sinister dimension to the SEDENA-Sig Sauer agreement. A portion of the profits obtained by Sig Sauer in Mexico will have been used to support, politically and economically, the man who has repeatedly insulted Mexico. The company contributed at least $100,000 to the campaign of the current United States president, and there is no record of it having publicly distanced itself from the aggression to which the Mexican people have been subjected. We also do not know if SEDENA or the Mexican president have demanded a clarification.
Sig Sauer also has not concerned itself much with the illegal trafficking of its weapons to Mexico, either. The hitman who in 2010 killed Marisela Escobedo, the mother of a murdered young woman, who protested at the doors of the state government building in Chihuahua, used a Sig Sauer gun. A German human rights activist, Jürgen Grässlin, has sued the company for its responsibility in that killing and that of other innocent Mexicans.
The cost in lives is as intolerable as is the indolence of the Mexican government: they silently accept U.S. policies tolerating the illegal supply of weapons to criminals, and then some in Washington criticize us for not being able to control them. I understand the difficulties of cancelling a contract that has been signed or imposing strict controls on weaponry provided to police agencies. Nevertheless, it is urgent that the Congress, in particular the Senate’s Belisario Dominguez Institute, review the issue of weapons and the terms of the SEDENA-Sig Sauer contract, in order to impose some conditions and explore the possibility of cancelling it. Mexico needs lawmakers with knowledge and sensibility.
Mexican domestic security requires a major overhaul that includes an integrated strategy that offers guarantees to the armed forces and restructures the police force, making protection of society the priority. In light of the president's inaction, it is up to the Congress to investigate what is happening with the weapons, in the knowledge that this is a fundamental component for halting the bloodshed and attending to the victims.
Congress should also establish who is controlling the security policy with the United States. Dolia Estevez wrote that on January 31 a secret meeting took place in the city of Tapachula between Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Videgaray and the Southern and Northern Commands of the United States. The meeting was denied by the foreign minister, but confirmed by Reuters, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, and the Pentagon. Who attended, and what agreements did they make? Has Videgaray also been given the security portfolio? What is going on there?
With the assistance of Maura Roldán Álvarez. Translated by John Lindsay-Poland.