June 18, 2009 in Nation/World

Watchdog: U.S. not stopping gun trafficking

Josh Meyer Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – America lacks a coordinated strategy to stem the flow of weapons across its southern border, a failure that has fueled the rise of powerful criminal cartels and violence in Mexico, according to a government watchdog agency report being released today.

The report by the independent Government Accountability Office represents the first federal assessment of the issue and offers blistering conclusions that likely will affect the debate over the role of U.S. weaponry as Mexican violence threatens to seep across the border.

According to a draft copy of the report, the growing number of increasingly lethal weapons being smuggled into Mexico now comprise more than 90 percent of the firearms seized and traced by authorities there.

It also cites recent U.S. intelligence indicating that most of the weapons are being smuggled in specifically for the syndicates, and are being used not only against the Mexican government but also to help the cartels in their efforts to control drug distribution in U.S. cities.

“The U.S. government lacks a strategy to address arms trafficking to Mexico,” the report says. “Individual U.S. agencies have undertaken a variety of activities and projects to combat arms trafficking to Mexico, but they are not part of a comprehensive U.S. government-wide strategy for addressing the problem.”

Obama administration officials said that although they could not comment on a report that has not been released publicly, they have taken steps in recent months to upgrade efforts to stem the illegal flow of weapons to Mexico, long a source of frustration to Mexican authorities.

Earlier this month, for instance, the administration announced a new Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, which includes a section on arms trafficking.

The GAO report’s authors, however, said that strategy and similar Obama administration efforts are embryonic and unlikely to significantly improve the situation soon.

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