U.S., Mexico Crack Down on Weapons Smuggling

Houston has the undesirable distinction of being the number one U.S. city for weapons smuggling.

Hundreds of firearms that end up in Mexico, are traced back to the Houston region.

Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers says the arms are sent as payment to drug cartels in Mexico.

"We're not talking about your father's hunting rifle. We're talking about dangerous munition-grade weapons, AK-47s, sniper rifles, ammunition that's a very high grade and is designed for one thing: designed to kill. And so that's why I think our efforts together are all the more important."

Myers is in Houston to announce the launch of Operation Armas Cruzadas. It's a task force that will attempt to identify weapons smugglers before they cross into Mexico.

Mexico's Customs Director, Juan Bravo, says they're going to include more intelligence in the way they analyze the cars at border crossings.

"We also are investing in x-ray machines that we will be putting more at the border so that we will be increasing our position to attack this problem."

And they're expanding their K-9 capacity. Mexico currently has 90 K-9 units in the entire country. They plan to increase that to 324 over the next two years.

Congressman Henry Cuellar, of Laredo, says the focus used to be concentrated on the drugs smuggled into this country. But now the two countries are examining what we're sending back across the border. And he says the escalating drug cartel violence has already spilled over.

"In fact if you look at some of the Mexican drug cartels presence on the U.S. side, it's in Laredo, it's in San Antonio, it's in Houston, Dallas and other areas. There is a Mexican drug cartel presence over here and this is why the Armas Cruzadas with what Homeland is doing here is so important to our fight to make sure that we win this particular battle."

Last year, the two governments seized 372 weapons, 100,000 rounds of ammunition and $4.6 million in cash from arms smugglers.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
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