Mexican authorities detained a U.S. trucker at the southwest border, after finding more than 250,000 rounds of ammunition for the assult rifles of choice of Mexico's criminal gangs.
Mexican officials say the 37-year-old man from Dallas, Texas who was crossing the border into Ciudad Juarez, told Customs he had nothing to declare, but an x-ray examination of his vehicle showed he was carrying 268,000 bullets for AR-15 and AK-47 assault rifles.
Mexican authorities say the driver told officials he was planning to sell the ammo in Juarez to two members of a criminal group,according to the El Diario de Juarez newspaper.
However, the trucker's employer told the that the driver had made an honest mistake. Demco Trans. Inc., based in Arlington, Texas, and the supposed recipient of the shipment, a gun store in Arizona, said the driver made a wrong turn after making a delivery in El Paso and ended up on the border. He did not intend to cross, they allege, and when he explained his mistake to the agents and asked if he could turn around, they refused and arrested him.
US agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) arrived in Mexico this morning to further investigate the issue.
InSight Crime Analysis
In a joint project in 2011, InSight Crime examined the flood of illegal weapons entering Mexico from the US. The 7.62mm bullets in the trucker's cargo is ammo for AK-47s, an assault rifle so favored by Mexican gangs that it has a nickname: “cuerno de chivo,” or “goat’s horn,” named for its curved magazine.
Because weapons and ammunition are banned in Mexico, criminal groups frequently use buyers in US border states to purchase supplies. And because bullets have no serial numbers and are difficult to trace, buyers for Mexican groups have special incentive to purchase ammunition in bulk. Last year, Tijuana police reported seizing double the number of bullets in 2011 compared to 2008, although it is not clear how many of those were traced back to the US. Similarly, in Arizona ammunition seizures increased some 125 percent between 2007 and 2011.
During the North American Leaders' Summit earlier this month, Mexican President Felipe Calderón hinted that the Obama administration's efforts at curtailing arms trafficking at the border were insufficient. Calderón has consistently called for stricter gun control laws in the US to stem the flow of weapons and ammunition into Mexico. If this latest incident involving a US trucker should prove to be another case of ammo-smuggling, it could turn into another point of tension between the two countries.