It has been nearly two years since the ATF’s Phoenix Field Division began allowing straw-purchased guns bought in the United States to “walk” into Mexico, and seven months since the ATF stopped it. The arms trafficking scheme, dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious” after the street racing film franchise, was designed as a strategy to track smuggling routes and as a means to build cases against the higher echelons of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. In theory, the ATF would bypass the lower-level sources of trafficked weapons to hit the cartels directly.
It was a disaster. More than one thousand guns vanished into cartel arsenals. Others began appearing at crime scenes across Mexico. Gunmen with traced weapons were linked to the November murder of Mario Gonzalez, brother of the former Chihuahua state attorney general. In May this year, La Familia gunmen forced down a Federal Police helicopter with a traced Barret .50 caliber rifle, then shot up four more choppers several days later.
But the operation’s sudden closure came earlier. Last December, two guns linked to Fast and Furious were uncovered at the site of a confrontation between gunmen and the U.S. Border Patrol near Rio Rico, Arizona. A three-year veteran of the agency, Brian Terry, was killed. ATF officials quickly moved to shut down the plan and then apparently tried to conceal the debacle from Congress, according to a report released Tuesday before a hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “Unfortunately, there are hundreds of Brian Terrys probably in Mexico … we ATF armed the [Sinaloa] cartel,” Carlos Canino, the ATF’s deputy attache to Mexico, told the Justice Department in June. “It is disgusting.”
“Any strategy or tactic other than interdiction of illegally purchased firearms at the first lawful opportunity should be subject to strict operational controls,” concluded the House oversight panel. “These controls are essential to ensure that no government agency ever again allows guns to knowingly flow from American gun stores to intermediaries to Mexican drug cartels.”
Angel de Jesus Pacheco, a leader of the Rastrojos drug paramilitary organization, met his end Monday at the hands of his own bodyguards — tied to a tree and shot to death in the northern conflict-affected department of Antioquia. Pacheco rose in the criminal ranks through the far right United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), but later transitioned to a leadership role in the Rastrojos following the AUC’s demobilization. According to Elyssa Pachico at InSight, local police believe the killing was likely the outcome of a conspiracy within the Rastrojos. “Pacheco was a deeply brutal man who commanded little grassroots support or respect from the locals,” Pachico said.
Canadian authorities arrested an accused Honduran war criminal in Edmonton on Friday. Cristobal Gonzalez-Ramirez is believed to have headed a death squad responsible for more than a hundred civilian executions during the 1980s. Gonzalez-Ramirez had been living in Canada for the past five years. Meanwhile, Pulsamerica rounds up recent proposals by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to demand the United States compensate victims of U.S.-backed contras during the region’s Cold War conflicts.