Gunmen hijacked two trucks hauling more than seven million rounds of ammunition in central Mexico, a massive heist that could escalate fighting in one of the country’s most violent areas.
The armed group intercepted the trucks on June 9 in the municipality of San Luis de la Paz, in the central state of Guanajuato, according to press reports. The drivers and security personnel were unharmed in the robbery. The trucks were found later, with their two trailers emptied of bullets.
The stolen ammunition was for 14 different types of guns and had an estimated value of $2.7 million, according to media estimates. While most of the ammunition was for small firearms, such as .22- and .40-caliber pistols, a significant portion of the bullets were for high-powered weapons, including AR-15 and M-16 rifles.
The trucks carrying the ammunition had departed from a factory in Cuernavaca and were bound for Texas, El Universal reported, citing Mexico’s National Defense Secretariat (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional – SEDENA).
San Luis de la Paz, the town where the robbery took place, has been embroiled in a bloody war, as has most of Guanajuato, between Mexico’s most powerful criminal group, the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG), and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel. In 2019, the governor of Guanajuato also claimed that the Gulf Cartel (Clan del Golfo), a powerful criminal syndicate based in northern Mexico, was present in San Luis de la Paz.
None of these actors has so far claimed responsibility for the robbery.
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Stealing ammunition, especially on such a massive scale, is virtually unheard of in the Mexican underworld, and the bullets could filter to criminal groups, as does much of the ammunition smuggled from the United States.
To put the size of the robbery into perspective, Guanajuato’s attorney general said that 15,000 bullets in León, the state’s largest city, are enough to arm the entire municipal police. The stolen ammunition could supply the police force more than 460 times over, he said.
Mexico has strict gun-control laws, and the vast majority of illegal weaponry used by criminal groups in Mexico is sourced in the United States. Ammunition is also moved over the border.
Last February, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry announced that greater quantities of ammunition were coming from the US. More than 80 percent of weapons-related seizures at the border crossing of Nogales, Arizona included bullets, the Associated Press reported.
The highest-profile case of ammunition robbery in Mexico came in July 2020 when 28,000 bullets disappeared from the police force of Silao, a town in Guanajuato. The robbery was initially linked to a number of police killings, but the bullets mysteriously reappeared several months later in the police’s inventory.
Signs point to the recent heist being an inside job. The armed group responsible knew exactly when the trucks would be passing, pilfered every single box of ammunition and spared the drivers and guards, with no shots reportedly being fired on either side.