Members of "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel tried to buy high-powered weaponry, including surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons, according to US government reports, suggesting that the powerful drug trafficking syndicate is seeking to make a quantum leap in its military capacity.
According to the US Justice Department, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas and the Familia Michoacana all established arms trafficking networks that allowed them to import high caliber assault weapons and military equipment from the United States, reported Mexico's El Universal.
In three of the 25 cases detailed, which span from 2007 to 2012, undercover agents with the US Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (ATF) bureau managed to prevent Sinaloa Cartel operatives from obtaining weapons including Stinger surface-to-air missiles and various anti-tank weapons.
Over the time period, US security forces broke up several arms trafficking cells, arresting a number of men on both sides of the border. Among the US arrests were ex-military personnel. The various trafficking cells operated out of Texas, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and California.
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One of the reasons El Chapo has managed to evade capture for so long is thanks to his small army of private security, which in 2009 consisted of 300 personal bodyguards, according to a US diplomatic cable obtained by Wikileaks.
With El Chapo believed to favor isolated hideouts, the type of high-powered weaponry mentioned in the reports would help repel security forces raids before they even came within touching distance of the infamous drug lord, while surface to air missiles would offer protection against raids carried out with helicopters.
The reports also highlight what is a broader and ongoing issue -- the trafficking of arms from the United States to Mexico. The price and accessibility of arms in the United States makes it an ideal source country, not only for Mexico, but also for other crime-plagued Latin American countries, including Colombia, where there have been numerous cases showing how US-purchased weapons end up in the hands of Colombian gangs and drug trafficking organizations.