The mayor and the police chief of Columbus, New Mexico, were arrested Thursday along with nine others for alleged participation in an arms-trafficking ring that smuggled weapons to Mexico. Vega and Mayor Eddie Espinoza are charged with conspiring to buy about 200 illegal firearms to export to Mexico between January 2010 and March 2011, reports El Universal. Among the weapons meant to be trafficked were “Cuerno de Chivo” or “Goat Horn” WASR-10 guns, a cheap knockoff of the AK-47 and popular among Mexican gangsters. It is unclear how Police Chief Angelo Vega, pictured above, managed to rise in the police ranks, considering his prior run-ins with the law dating back to 1996, including being charged with extortion, stalking, and intimidating witnesses, reports El Paso Times. The Columbus arrests come at a time of tension between the United States and Mexico, amid reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) allowed “straw buyers” to purchase guns that later ended up being used by cartels like the Zetas, in hope of building stronger cases to later prosecute U.S.-based gun smugglers.
- In Michoacan, Mexico, banners have appeared announcing the creation of a new cartel, the “Knights Templar,” reports Cronica. At first glance this appears to be the work of the inheritors of the Familia Michoacana, who announced their supposed dissolution in January.
- From Bolivia come reports that a top police official, arrested February 24 in Panama on drug-trafficking charges, facilitated the export of 4.7 tons of cocaine to eight countries, reports Chilean newspaper El Mercurio. Since February 2010, retired police general Rene Sanabria was coordinating the trafficking of cocaine to countries as far away as Ukraine (which received a shipment of 766 kilos), Canada (2,020 kilos) and Nigeria (which received two seperate shipments of 450 and 110 kilos). The political impact of Sanabria’s arrest, who at the time was working as an intelligence advisor to the government’s interior ministry, is still being felt, with President Evo Morales commenting to La Razon that Sanabria’s arrest by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents was part of a “strategy” to show that Bolivia is a “narco-government.”