This Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011 picture shows part of a cache of seized weapons displayed at an ATF news conference in Phoenix. (AP)
A Mexican cartel hitman turned protected government informant has reportedly testified that cartel members acquired weapons from the U.S. Border Patrol for a series of battles to drive rival gangsters from their territory.
The Nov. 7 report in the Mexican investigative magazine Contralinea provided no real specifics from the witness, "Victoria," about how the arms -- said to be AK-47-type assault weapons -- were allegedly obtained.
From Wired magazine's Danger Room, based off the Spanish-language Contralinea report:
The testimony of a Mexican hitman turned government witness has revealed some astonishing details of life inside Mexico’s criminal underworld. Most astonishing of all: claims that cartel assassins obtained guns from the U.S. Border Patrol.
“Victoria” first joined a Sinaloa Cartel enforcer group called Gente Nueva, or New People, in 2009. Within Gente Nueva, the witness worked for smaller group called the Javelins. Their job, over 2009 and 2010, was to eliminate groups of rival Zetas and Beltran Leyva Organization members that had seized Sinaloa Cartel turf in Mexico’s desert west. The enforcers moved by convoy, ranging from 20 to 80 trucks and SUVs with five or six gunmen in each, and fought a series of pitched battles over control of the area’s “plazas,” or hubs for moving cocaine and marijuana.
“The instruction was to kill them all,” the witness said.
The Javelins’ leader, Jose Vazquez or “Wild Boar” also seems to have been in charge of a pretty sophisticated operation. The group fielded escort teams for carrying weapons shipments and controlling drug trafficking routes, and teams of 12 for smuggling marijuana across the border. Cocaine was flown in from southern Mexico before being smuggled. They even had one command-and-control station for monitoring cameras placed along key highways.
Underneath Vazquez, according to the witness, was a deputy in Tucson in charge of smuggling weapons from the United States. Another deputy in Mexico was in charge of receiving the weapons. There was a deputy tasked with “cooptation of [Mexican] authorities” on the local, state and federal levels. Vazquez also had an accountant responsible for “organizing the logistics of fighting with other cartels,” paying for weapons including those allegedly obtained from the Border Patrol, and managing salaries. (The witness had a salary of $6,000 per month.)
As Wired noted, we don't know whether the witness is telling the truth. Still, the claim has the potential to relight the controversy over Fast and Furious, the flawed gun-tracking operation that led to the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately return a request for comment from TheBlaze, though a spokesperson told Wired the agency was looking into the claim.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who has come under congressional scrutiny over the Justice Department's role in Fast and Furious, said Thursday he was unsure about whether he would stay on for President Barack Obama's second term.