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HomeU.S.A‘They’re culpable’: the international locations supplying the weapons that kill Mexico’s journalists

‘They’re culpable’: the international locations supplying the weapons that kill Mexico’s journalists


It was round dawn when Mexican crime reporter Luis Vallejo obtained a name from an area police officer telling him {that a} bag of human stays had been discovered within the metropolis of Salamanca the place he lives.

Vallejo had turn out to be accustomed to calls like this: in recent times, violence in Guanajuato, the encompassing area, has spiraled to unprecedented ranges amid bloody turf wars between rival cartels.

However when he reached the scene he discovered Israel Vázquez, a fellow reporter – and a lifelong good friend of Vallejo – gasping for breath in a pool of blood. Vázquez, 31, had been shot 11 instances by drive-by assailants as he ready to broadcast stay on Fb. Police discovered bullet casings from two weapons: a 9mm and a .45 caliber.

Vázquez, a father of two little ladies, died afterward 9 November, changing into the third journalist shot useless in 10 days in Mexico – essentially the most harmful nation on the planet for the media outdoors battle zones.

“All the things got here crashing down on me,” stated Vallejo, 32, who was impressed to turn out to be a journalist by his good friend.

A couple of days later, two males linked to the homicide had been arrested, together with seven different alleged native gang members. Based on native information studies, authorities additionally seized an arsenal of high-caliber weapons from all over the world, together with a US-made semi-automatic rifle, Israeli and German assault rifles, and a modified semi-automatic shotgun from Turkey.

Since 2000, virtually three-quarters of the 119 journalists murdered in Mexico had been killed by firearms, an investigation by the Cartel Mission has discovered – and most of these weapons are imported.

“Virtually the entire journalists in Mexico are killed with overseas weapons,” stated Laura Angelina Borbolla, a former federal prosecutor in control of investigating crimes towards journalists. Greater than 90% of the killings stay unsolved.

Since 2000, 119 journalists have been killed in Mexico, in response to the Committee to Shield Journalists, making it essentially the most harmful nation on the planet for members of the press, outdoors a warzone.

Now, 25 worldwide media shops have come collectively to pursue the tales of their murdered Mexican colleagues.

Working collectively throughout 18 totally different international locations over the course of 10 months, the consortium investigated the worldwide networks of Mexican drug cartels and their political connections all over the world.

The collaboration was coordinated by Forbidden Tales, a world community of investigative journalists whose mission is to proceed the work of reporters who’re threatened, censored or killed.

By concurrently publishing their tales, the members of The Cartel Mission imply to ship a robust message to enemies of the free press: “Killing the journalist received’t kill the story.”

A global coalition of journalists, coordinated by the non-profit Forbidden Tales, examined the move of weapons into Mexico in an effort to know the place the weapons are coming from.

The primary findings embody:

  • Weapons manufactured in Europe and Israel bought legally to the Mexican military – in addition to weapons trafficked illegally throughout the US border – are in all probability getting used to commit human rights violations and gangland executions, in response to declassified navy paperwork obtained by the non-governmental group (NGO) Cease US Arms to Mexico.

  • Commerce is booming, however European arms corporations are transport a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of {dollars} price of weapons, components and ammunition to Mexican states with dire human rights information.

  • Multinational arms corporations could possibly be violating European export legal guidelines as solely a fraction of end-users are being reported, in response to evaluation of the paperwork printed in a brand new report by a bunch of worldwide NGOs.

  • A mixture of weak worldwide laws and a tradition of impunity in Mexico makes tracing firearms used to commit crimes again to their origins just about not possible.

A booming enterprise

In 2006, the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, launched a militarized battle towards medicine which has been continued by successive presidents, and has led to a sustained surge in human rights violations. Violence has since soared: about 300,000 folks have been murdered, and tens of hundreds extra have disappeared.



Police examine a drug-related murder in 2008 in Juárez, Mexico, the place violence soared for the reason that begin of Felipe Calderón’s battle on medicine. {Photograph}: Shaul Schwarz/Getty Photographs

Mexico’s distress has been a bonanza for the arms commerce.

Based on US Worldwide Commerce Fee knowledge, about 28,465 weapons, principally handguns, had been legally bought to Mexico in 2019, however many extra US weapons are trafficked throughout the border, with some estimating as many as 213,000 weapons illegally making their solution to Mexico every year.

And between 2006 and 2018, European and Israeli corporations exported greater than 238,000 firearms to Mexico to be used by state and native police. Greater than half got here from simply two corporations, Beretta, based mostly in Italy, and Austria-based Glock, in commerce offers price tens of thousands and thousands of euros, in response to declassified Mexican navy paperwork obtained by Cease US Arms to Mexico.

The paperwork present that European weapons have often been bought to states the place safety forces have a well-documented historical past of human rights violations and collusion with prison teams, akin to Guerrero, the place native police and troopers have been implicated within the 2014 compelled disappearance of 43 trainee lecturers.

“Normally the place we’ve got documented enforced disappearance, there’s all the time this collusion between the state authorities and arranged crime – and there’s all the time the trade of weapons between these two entities,” stated Erika Guevara Rosas, the Americas director for Amnesty Worldwide.

Beretta and Glock didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark.

Even international locations that promote comparatively few weapons to Mexico – akin to the UK – have seen exports improve. Based on figures from Marketing campaign Towards Arms Commerce (CAAT), UK export licenses to Mexico elevated from 58 in 2008 to 350 in 2017.

In early 2015, simply weeks after the 43 college students had been forcibly disappeared, the UK ambassador to Mexico informed the Guardian: “In the long run we’d aspire to turn out to be a participant in Mexico’s navy procurement.”

Since then, Mexico is listed as a “precedence market” for arms exports for the UK.

Whereas most licences have been for large-scale navy tools, the UK has additionally sanctioned £4m of small arms to Mexico. However the true worth of the arms offers could possibly be greater, as there have been three open export licences which campaigners say make monitoring gross sales rather more tough. Open export licences, which generally final for about 5 years, permit for limitless exports.

“Through the use of this opaque mechanism, the federal government is making correct scrutiny of arms gross sales even tougher,” stated Andrew Smith of CAAT.

A authorities spokesperson stated: “The UK operates one of the vital complete export management regimes on the planet.”

A perverse monopoly

In Mexico, the military controls all weapons imports and resales to native and state police, and personal people. Greater than 95% of European weapons the military has bought to police forces since 2006 had been categorized as for “navy use” below Mexican regulation, which on paper restricts authorized gun gross sales to civilians.

Hundreds of firearms, obtained through seizures and from citizens during Mexico’s firearm exchange program, are on display.



Tons of of firearms, obtained by seizures and from residents throughout Mexico’s firearm trade program, are on show. {Photograph}: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Photographs

Past the usage of these arms by police, proof means that among the European weapons flooding the market in Mexico have additionally been linked to the killing of journalists, human rights defenders and civilians, in response to evaluation of the military paperwork printed in a brand new report, by a bunch of worldwide NGOs together with World Trade.

José Armando Rodríguez Carreón who labored for El Diario de Ciudad Juárez, was shot useless in 2008 with an Italian pistol, in response to prosecutor Borbolla. In 2013, a Belgian weapon was used to gun down Jaime Guadalupe González Domínguez within the northern state of Chihuahua.

Veracruz – the Mexican state with the very best variety of journalists killed since 2000 – has often obtained weapons and ammunition from quite a lot of European and Israeli corporations.

US regulation enforcement officers stated that the various killings and disappearances, together with of native journalists, in Veracruz through the 2010-2016 administration of Governor Javier Duarte, couldn’t have taken place with out complicity between the cartels, politicians and police.

Probably the most regularly focused journalists are those that dare to examine relationships between corrupt officers and arranged crime. The Mexico Violence Useful resource Mission estimates that almost half of threats towards journalists got here from state actors akin to police and mayors, in comparison with 5% by prison teams.

Regardless of this, worldwide weapons producers are undiscerning in relation to promoting to states with a protracted observe document of human rights violations, in response to John Lindsay-Poland, the director of Cease US Arms to Mexico.

“They clearly know that weapons are going to states like Guerrero and Veracruz and Tamaulipas and Chihuahua which have lengthy, well-documented histories of corruption and human rights abuses and impunity,” he stated. “In our view, they’re culpable.”

Proof means that vital numbers of military-grade European weapons have ended up within the palms of cartels, in response to Forbidden Tales’ evaluation of open-source images.

Javier Valdez, a Mexican journalist, was murdered in 2017.



Javier Valdez, a Mexican journalist, was murdered in 2017. {Photograph}: Pedro Pardo/AFP through Getty Photographs

Safety guards working for Dámaso López Serrano – the son of a senior lieutenant within the Sinaloa cartel, who Mexican prosecutors say ordered the homicide of journalist Javier Valdez in 2017 – had been photographed carrying a German-produced machine gun. The identical mannequin has been bought to police in additional than half of Mexico’s 32 states together with Sinaloa, in response to the declassified paperwork.

Different cartels have additionally obtained navy grade weaponry from overseas. Photographs from the tried assassination of police chief Omar García in Mexico Metropolis in June 2020 by the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion present a Belgian assault rifle sitting within the mattress of a pickup truck.

Previously decade, greater than 4,000 weapons from corporations based mostly in Europe – Italy, Romania, Austria, Belgium and Germany – had been recovered at crime scenes in Mexico, in response to the military paperwork.

Between 2000 and 2015, greater than 20,000 weapons had been misplaced by or stolen from federal, state and native police, in response to the military knowledge. In Guerrero and Tamaulipas, two of essentially the most violent states in Mexico, 20% and 10% of weapons respectively, had been misplaced between 2006 and 2017.

After Israel Vásquez was shot useless in Salamanca, protesters took to the streets when the native mayor appeared guilty the journalist for reporting early within the morning in a harmful neighborhood.

Regardless of the arrest of two males linked to his homicide, Vásquez’s colleagues proceed to demand a full investigation into the weapons and motive behind the killing.

“The folks of Salamanca are demanding justice for Israel – for the loss that he left as a brother, son, father and good friend,” Vallejo stated. “We don’t need him to be simply one other chilly case.”

Further reporting by Veronica Espinosa (Proceso) in Guanajuato and Dana Priest (The Washington Submit)



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