In what appears to be a first, Mexico's authorities have discovered two arms manufacturing sites in the country's turbulent state of Jalisco, in what could be a new strategy for criminal groups to obtain homemade, high-grade weapons.
In an on-going investigation, Jalisco's Attorney General Luis Carlos Najera Gutierrez de Velasco announced on October 7 that two residences converted into make-shift laboratories for arms manufacturing had been discovered in the capital city Guadalajara in a joint operation between US and Mexican officials, reported La Jornada.
Police arrested four men in connection to the operation, who are suspected of being part of an arms trafficking ring that sells illegal weapons to Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (JCNG), as well as other organized crime groups in neighboring Michoacan, reported Excelsior.
In a statement, Attorney General Najera said he believed parts of the materials to build the weapons -- which were modeled after the popular AR-15s, a high-caliber rifle -- were sent from a group in the United States and were put together in the clandestine factories.
According to Najera, 18 rifles were seized by police during the operation, and 100 AR-15s have already been sold, presumably to criminal groups in the region, reported Informador.
InSight Crime Analysis
The reported discovery of a domestic arms laboratory in Mexico is a first and evokes many unanswered questions. The most important of these is why these arms trafficking rings would build weapons within Mexico at all, especially given the cost considerations of building them locally and the heavy and still largely unchecked flow of arms from the United States to Mexico.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking
For years, Mexican criminal groups have bought rifles in bulk using straw purchasers in the US, then had them smuggled across the border in small chunks. In a notorious case, US federal agents allowed gun dealers to illegally purchase thousands of weapons between 2006-2011 in an attempt to trace the flow of guns that end up in the hands of criminal organizations in Mexico so they could arrest a high level kingpin buyer. The kingpin was not arrested and the guns were used in crimes in Mexico and, most famously, against a US border agent in Arizona in a firefight that left the agent dead.
Former President Felipe Calderon has blamed Mexico's high level of violence on lax US gun laws, as a high percentage of weapons found at crime scenes were bought in the United States. This latest discovery, however, may point towards a troubling new possibility: that of criminal groups obtaining parts abroad, perhaps even over the Internet, and putting them together en masse at home in their basements.