HomeInvestigationsIRW: Romania, Vermont, Arizona: Guns Follow Complex Route to Mexican Cartels
INVESTIGATIONS

IRW: Romania, Vermont, Arizona: Guns Follow Complex Route to Mexican Cartels

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 2 FEB 2011 BY RICK YOUNG AND WILLIAM W. CUMMINGS* EN

(With permission from the Investigative Reporting Workshop.)

Armed with assault rifles and hand grenades, Arturo Beltran Leyva, head of one of the most ruthless drug cartels in Mexico, battled hundreds of Mexican navy commandos with six of his bodyguards from a luxury high-rise Cuernavaca apartment in December 2009. Two hours later, Beltran Leyva and his men lay dead amid the heavy stench of gunpowder, pools of blood and puddles of water from pipes pierced by gunfire. A grenade killed one commando and wounded six others, and a passerby died from a gunshot wound.

At the time, the takedown of Beltran Leyva was heralded as the high point of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's war against the cartels and as evidence of growing U.S.-Mexico bilateral effectiveness. In a classified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, and recently disclosed by WikiLeaks, officials hailed the military operation as "one of the greatest successes to date in the counternarcotics fight."

Not mentioned in the celebratory cable, however, was that during the weeklong chase and takedown of Beltran Leyva, Mexican authorities seized a wartime cache of weapons, grenades, scopes, silencers and nearly 9,000 rounds of ammunition. Many of the guns recovered in the operation would later be traced back to the United States. More alarming, nearly half of the 62 rifles seized were Romanian AK-47s that had come from a single gun shop, X Caliber, in the north suburbs of Phoenix.

Read full story at the Investigative Reporting Workshop...

*Young is a producer for FRONTLINE/Investigative Reporting Workshop. Cummings is reporter for the Investigative Reporting Workshop and a contributing writer at InSight.

Other Stories in the Series:

GunRunners: Introduction to the Joint Project

How Guns are Trafficked Below the Border

How the Beltran Leyva, Sinaloa Cartel Feud Bloodied Mexico

The Takedown of the 'Boss of Bosses'

CPI: Romanian Weapons Modified in the U.S. Become Scourge of Mexican Drug War

share icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

MEXICO / 27 FEB 2012

Mexican border city Juarez, formerly the most dangerous place in the world, made significant security advances in 2011. But this…

GENDER AND CRIME / 5 SEP 2011

Many female migrants from Mexico to the U.S. have been displaced by violence, often linked to organized crime, with Mexican…

MEXICO / 14 JAN 2011

The mayor of a small town in southern Mexico, Luis Jimenez Mata, was assassinated yesterday by unknown gunmen in the…

icon #SupportFreePress
image

Support Our Work

Investigating organized crime is an expensive and often risky enterprise. Reaching primary sources and getting the real story involve extensive fieldwork. Please donate. Every dollar supports our mission.

DONATE NOW image