Monday, September 10, 2012

Fast and Furiously to Colombia II

Made in the USA? Weapons confisticated from the
murderous Oficina de Envigado. (Foto: El Espectador)
A cache of weapons sold to criminals in Texas in order to trace them to Mexican cartels has turned up in Medellin, El Tiempo reports.

It's the second time that weapons from the controversial Fast and Furious weapons tracing program have turned up in Colombia. And, undoubtedly, the news will provide more ammunition for Republican critics of the Obama administration.

But the criticism misses the forest for the trees.

Yes, this project went very wrong when U.S. officials lost control of the weapons. However, the goal was extremely important: to find out how drug cartels and other criminal networks illegal obtain weapons sold in the U.S. and then use them to wreak havoc south of the Rio Grande.

A Colombian policeman, allegedly murdered
by the Oficina de Envigado. (Foto: La Vanguardia)
This April, U.S. authorities reported that more than 68,000 guns recovered in Mexico during the past 5 years came from the United States - which is surely just a fraction of the U.S. guns being used by Mexican criminals. And then there are the guns from the U.S. wreaking violence in the rest of Central and South America, including Colombia and elsewhere. To its credit, the Fast and Furious plan has shown just how far those U.S. guns get smuggled. The weapons in Medellin were reportedly recovered from the 'Office of Envigado', a violent succesor organization to Pablo Escobar's cartel employing ex-paramilitaries killers.

The weapons found a month ago on the property of the Envigado's commander included 13 pistols, 9 submachine guns and 56 rifles, according to El Tiempo, altho the article doesn't make clear how many of those came from the States. But those are probably only a sample of the firepower smuggled here from the U.S.

Guns for sale without background checks
at a US gun show. 
Mexican government officials and common Mexican people whose relatives have been killed in their nation's mindless violence have implored the U.S. to take common sense measures to control gun sales. And it's only common sense that by controlling sales of automatic rifles and huge gun magazines useful only for mass murder (as a start), the U.S. would benefit as well. The recent massacres in a movie theatre and a Sikh temple are plain evidence of that.

A piece of graffiti in Bogotá plays a
tic tac toe game with rifles and
bulls-eyes and concludes that '
Nobody wins.'
But owners of gun stores in U.S. border states such as Texas, Arizona and New Mexico were so selfish that they sued to overturn an Obama administration rule requiring them to file reports when someone purchased several high-powered rifles within a five-day period. Just to make myself clear: the gunshops were still allowed to sell a person multiple high-powered firearms within a five-day period, but just had to report the sales. But the gun sellers' valued their profits so much more than they did lives of people in Mexico and Colombia that they objected even to that. At gun shows, meanwhile, firearms are bought and sold with virtually no control at all.

Everybody knows where most of these weapons go, and who uses them: vicious criminals like the Oficina de Envigado. But the U.S. political system is too intimidated by fanatical gun rights lobbies such as the National Rifle Association to do anything about it.

It's a continent-wide tragedy which appears to be expanding fast and furiously.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: